SEED MONEY Despite controversy over the Solyndra venture, DOE is determine to press forward with loan guarantees for solar-energy start-ups.

Despite questions about the Dept. of Energy's loan guarantee program raised by the bankruptcy of solar manufacturer Solyndra, DOE closed all but seven of its 35 conditional loan guarantees before the end of the government's fiscal year and the Sept. 30 end of the stimulus-backed program.

With just hours to go, DOE closed four outstanding loan guarantees totaling $4.76 billion: $1.2 billion for SunPower to build a 250-MW photovoltaic solar farm; a $1.4-billion loan guarantee for a 752-MW solar project across 750 rooftops in 28 states and the District of Columbia, financed in part by NRG Energy; a $1.5-billion guarantee for First Solar's Desert Center, Calif., 550-MW Desert Sunlight project; and a $646-million loan guarantee for First Solar's Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1, a 230-MW solar project being built in Los Angeles County.

Since the start of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-backed loan guarantee program, DOE has awarded almost $20 billion in loan guarantees. The program does not provide money for the projects, but it helps developers secure financing by promising that the government will cover any defaulted loans. The program left the U.S. on the hook for $535 million after Solyndra declared bankruptcy on Aug. 31.

That program, called 1705, did not include loan guarantees for nuclear projects, such as Southern Co.'s two new nuclear units at its Vogtle plant or Areva's Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility, a nuclear enrichment plant the company is planning to build in Idaho. Loan guarantees for those projects, under DOE's 1703 program, are conditional and will not be awarded until the projects reach certain milestones—for example, receiving construction and operating licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.