Fox Nation Falsely Suggests "Taxpayers Lose $2 Billion" On Solar Trust

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN

Fox Nation has seized on the bankruptcy filing of solar energy company Solar Trust to suggest that "taxpayers" would "lose $2 billion" because of the bankruptcy. However, Solar Trust did not receive loan guarantees from the federal government.

Fox Claims Solar Trust "Received A $2.1 Billion Conditional Loan Guarantee" Before Bankruptcy

Fox Nation: "Another Obama Solar Company Goes Bankrupt ... Taxpayers Lose $2 BILLION?" An April 2 post on Fox Nation linked to a recent Associated Press article with the headline:

Fox Nation Solar Trust

Beneath an excerpt of the article was a VentureBeat.com article from April 2011 that stated, "The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $2.1 billion loan guarantee to Solar Trust of America for a solar thermal power plant near Blythe, Calif." [Fox Nation, 4/2/12]

But Solar Trust Never Received "$2 Billion" In Government Loans

Wash. Post: When DOE Offered Solar Trust "A $2.1 Billion Loan Guarantee," Company "Turned It Down." From a September 26, 2011, Washington Post article:

Uwe T. Schmidt, chief executive of Solar Trust, says he is a fan of the Energy Department's loan-guarantee program. He met with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the program's director, Jonathan Silver, when his company was seeking support for a 1,000-megawatt solar thermal plant it wanted to build in the California desert in Riverside County.

But when the department offered him a $2.1 billion loan guarantee, Schmidt turned it down. It would have been one of the largest stimulus-funded clean-technology projects, and Solar Trust had been negotiating the deal for roughly a year. But Schmidt decided it was too risky.

"I'm now famous for getting the largest loan guarantee and then turning it down," Schmidt said. "For very sound business reasons, we opted not to go forward." [The Washington Post, 9/26/11]

Electric Utility Week: "Solar Trust Changes Technology For California Project, Walks Away From $2.1B Loan Guarantee." From an August 29, 2011, article in Electric Utility Week:

A California developer has significantly altered the technology it will use to build a massive solar power plant in the Sonoran Desert, a move that makes it ineligible for a $2.1 billion loan guarantee that the Energy Department offered the company just a few months ago.

Solar Trust of America, based in Oakland, initially planned to use concentrating solar technology for the first 500-MW phase of the 9-square-mile power plant it intends to build near Blythe, about 200 miles west of Los Angeles. But Solar Trust announced last week that it will now use photovoltaic panels for at least the first phase of the project, which the company said are less expensive.

That decision allows Solar Trust to finance the project in the commercial banking market. But it also means that Solar Trust will walk away from the $2.1 billion loan guarantee that DOE conditionally awarded it in April -- the largest non-nuclear loan guarantee that the department has awarded to date.

"Improved conditions for solar PV projects in the commercial bank market made pursuing commercial financing a more attractive strategy at this time," Edward Sullivan, Solar Trust's vice president of communications and external affairs, said in an email.

Solar Trust's move makes it at least the third company to spurn a proffered DOE loan guarantee. [Electric Utility Week, 8/29/11, via Nexis]

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