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U.S. energy chief defends solar loans

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's energy chief, facing increased pressure over the failure of solar panel maker Solyndra, defended on Saturday a loan guarantee program that has provided billions of dollars for solar energy and other renewable energy projects.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said a stimulus law program that expired Friday will help develop the world's largest wind farm in Oregon, several large solar power farms in California and Nevada, and the installation of solar panels on 750 rooftops in 28 states, among other projects.

The loan program has become a rallying cry for critics of the Obama administration's green energy program after a California solar panel maker declared bankruptcy despite receiving a $528 million federal loan. The company, Solyndra, has laid off its 1,100 workers.

Chu did not mention Solyndra in a speech at a Solar Decathlon sponsored by the Energy Department. Students competed to build model solar homes in the event, which was won by the University of Maryland.

But Chu said loan guarantee projects will generate clean energy to power more than 2.5 million homes.

Combined with other programs run by the department, the clean energy loans are expected to support as many as 60,000 jobs, he said, though Republican lawmakers have disputed that figure.

Chu dismissed criticism from those who he said "are ready to wave the white flag and declare defeat."

The United States faces a choice, he said, to sit on the sidelines or try to win the "clean energy race" with China, Germany and other countries.

U.S. energy chief defends solar loans 10/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 1, 2011 11:18pm]
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