The absence of debate about energy policy in the Republican primaries, a Quadrennial Technology Review that sparked little conversation, and the ongoing Solyndra drama may give some the impression that the U.S. has gotten out of the solar power game. In fact, U.S. companies and the U.S. government are in the midst of building a number of large-scale solar projects, it’s just that they’re building all of them outside of the United States.
In Namibia, a group of U.S. energy investment companies have begun building the largest solar plant in the Southern Hemisphere. The plant will cost between $1.5 and $2 billion to construct, take two years to finish, and turn out 500 megawatts of power.
Meanwhile, in Thailand, OPIC, the U.S. government’s foreign investment arm, recently approved $250 million for 51 solar plants in Thailand. Ranging in size from one megawatt to 50 megawatts, these plants would generate a total of 520 megawatts.
Also near the Equator, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency has put out a call for vendors to build a 20 megawatt hybrid wind/solar park in Columbia. While not nearly as large as the Namibia plant or as comprehensive as the Thailand plan, the Columbian park would almost double the renewable energy in the country, which currently only reaps 28 megawatts of power from non-hydropower renewable sources.
The message is clear: The U.S. government has fully and monetarily supports the expansion of solar power, just so long as that expansion occurs outside America’s borders.