Ex-Im Bank invests in renewables, supports new solar projects in India

Exports from First Solar, Infinia provide force behind U.S. loansFor years, U.S.-based renewable energy companies have benefitted from financing offered to foreign countries by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). On March 30 the bank said it made $49 million in loans to support development of solar projects in India using exports from U.S.-based companies First Solar Inc. and Infinia Corp.

The bank made a $30-million loan to ACME Solar Technology (Gujarat) Pvt. Ltd. of India, to support the sale of 10-megawatts (MWs) of Infnia’s PowerDish for a solar-thermal project in Rajasthan. The project is being carried out under India's National Solar Mission and the state of Gujarat's Solar Power Policy, a first for an international financing institution, Ex-Im Bank said in a press release.

It also made a $19 million loan guarantee to Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank, for a long-term fixed-interest rate loan to support sales of 15 MWs of First Solar modules for a solar power plant in the state of Gujarat.

These are just the latest in string of loans that the Ex-Im Bank has made as part of its Environmental Exports Program, said Phil Cogan, vice president of public affairs at the bank.

Other countries, including Germany, Korea and Mexico have purchased U.S.-made renewable energy thanks to the loans. And more are coming.

“We’re on track to triple our renewable energy [loans] from last year to this year. We have a major emphasis on it,” he said. “We’re always looking to do more. We don’t have a limit on the size of loan—no minimum, no maximum.”

“The U.S. is known as an innovator in green technology,” Cogan said. But to make sure the country stays competitive with the overseas competition, it offers the financing.

“We can’t create the demand for the products, but we can promote the availability of financing to renewable companies in the U.S. [to sell internationally],” he said.

The loans are generating revenue for U.S. taxpayers, Cogan said.

“The Ex-Im Bank makes a profit, taxpayers don’t pay for the loans,” he said. “If we make a loan, where we’re providing the dollars, we charge interest and fees, and we have a low default rate of less than 1 percent.”

Since 2006, when it was last reauthorized, the bank has made $3.4 billion, all of which goes to the Department of Treasury.

Pictured: Infinia’s PowerDish, courtesy of Infinia Corp.