After 3 years, program that funded Solyndra solvent
The controversial government program that funded failed solar company Solyndra — and became a lightning rod in the 2012 presidential election — is officially in the black.
According to a report by the Department of Energy, interest payments to the government from projects funded by the Loan Programs Office were $810 million as of September — higher than the $780 million in losses from loans it sustained from startups including Fisker Automotive, Abound Solar and Solyndra, which went bankrupt after receiving large government loans intended to help them bring their advanced “green” technologies to market.
The report’s findings are more of a political victory than a financial one. It took the program three years to break even after Solyndra’s failure, while during that same time the Standard & Poor’s 500 index increased 67 percent.
Still, the federal loans program is a success for taxpayers, judging by the numbers in the new report, the DOE said. After Solyndra’s 2011 collapse, the program was sharply criticized by GOP lawmakers as a waste of public money and a fountain of cronyism. The outcries mounted as others in the program failed, and the DOE issued no new loans between late 2011 and this year.
“Taxpayers are not only benefitting from some of the world’s most innovative energy projects … but these projects are making good on their loan repayments,” said Peter Davidson, executive director of the Loan Programs Office. Davidson took over the loan program in May 2013.
Under the program, the DOE issues a loan guarantee for about 50 to 70 percent of a project’s cost. The borrower secures a loan from the Treasury or a private lender. Most of the program’s loans have come from the Treasury, Davidson said.