Solar plane is latest breakthrough as solar energy gains momentum

solar panels at a solar power plant

A solar plane called Solar Impulse flew for 26 hours, and solar energy companies are getting billions in government financing. Flickr photo.

In the spirit of the season, as heat waves roast major cities around the world, solar energy is a hot topic. From residential rooftops to power plants to experimental aircraft, solar energy is having its season in the sun. A solar-powered airplane landed Thursday after spending 26 hours aloft. And this week the Obama administration pledged $1.85 billion in guaranteed loans to develop a solar energy power plant and solar panel factories. But there’s a cloud. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ever the bearers of bad news these days, won’t accept mortgage loans that use a government program to finance solar energy installation costs.

Solar plane gets its day in the sun

A solar plane  landed in Paris Thursday after flying continuously for 26 hours, 9 minutes. The New York Times reports that the Solar Impulse reached an altitude of more than 28,000 feet and reached a maximum speed of 78 miles per hour during a day over Switzerland. The solar energy plan was powered overnight by energy collected during the day from solar panels on its 210-foot wingspan. Organizers said the flight was the longest and highest by a solar-powered craft.

Solar plane a poster child for solar energy

The Solar Impulse record-breaking flight took seven years of planning and brings the Swiss-led project one step closer to its ultimate goal of flying Solar Impulse around the world powered only by solar energy. The Associated Press reports that although the objective is to prove that emissions-free air travel is possible with Solar Impluse, the flight team said it doesn’t see solar energy replacing jet propulsion any time soon. Instead, the project is designed to test and promote new energy-efficient technologies.

Solar energy companies get billions from stimulus package

Speaking of new energy-efficient technologies, President Obama announced during his weekly address that the U.S. Department of Energy will pledge $1.85 billion from the economic stimulus package to two solar energy companies: Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing. The International Business Times reports that Abengoa Solar will build the first ever large-scale solar energy power plant in Arizona with $1.45 billion in funding. Developers say the project will create more than 1,600 construction jobs and clean energy for 70,000 homes. Abound Solar Manufacturing  will build a plant that manufactures solar panels in Colorado and another in Indiana with $400 million in funding. The solar panel factories are expected to create more than 2,000 construction jobs, conserve energy for 200,000 homes, and produce more than 1,500 permanent clean energy jobs.

PACE program: solar panels for your home

Clean energy initiatives that focus on solar energy are gaining momentum on many fronts. But the U.S. housing market, which has become the ball and chain for of economic recovery, is running true to form. Trading Markets reports that the Obama administration’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program is falling into the black hole of Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae. The PACE program is allocating $150 million in loans for local governments which they can then lend to you to cover the upfront costs solar panels for your home. The loans are paid off over time through property tax bills.

Fannie and Freddie cast dark cloud over solar energy

Residential solar energy could have been headed for a big boost with PACE. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, federal agencies that guarantee more than 50 percent of U.S. mortgages, are overwhelmed with millions of foreclosures. Officials in charge of the agencies, which have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $145 billion in losses, assume people will start defaulting on PACE mortgages as well. Both Fannie and Freddie have issued letters to mortgage sellers stating that they will not accept loans for homes using the program.

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