Seeds of revival in wind and solar?

- After several gloomy months, experts say that the stimulus package is beginning — just beginning — to revive interest in wind and solar power.

“I call this the green shoots period. We’re seeing new growth,” said Ron Kenedi, a vice-president of Sharp Solar, who noted that December, January and February had been “miserable.”


Kenedi referenced a large-scale institutional solar project (which he declined to name) that saw its financiers “walk away” late last year. Now, he said, banks willing to invest have arrived, and “they’ve unstuck their project.” He also noted that the Department of Energy has issued its first (and long-awaited) loan guarantee, to the solar manufacturer Solyndra.

In addition, Mr. Kenedi pointed to stimulus money that will soon be flowing to state governments through conservation-oriented block grants, so that smaller-scale solar projects might show a pickup in activity.

Craig Mataczynski, the president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a wind developer, was more circumspect (as was the head of General Electric’s Ecomagination arm).

“I would characterize the situation as ‘the fog appearing as if it is starting to lift,’” Mr. Mataczynski said in an e-mail message. A good sign, he said: “Talk of additional projects that people are looking to build.”

However, he added, the industry is still looking for clarity on how a new Treasury grant program (an important stimulus measure for renewable energy that turns tax credits into straight grants) will work. “We are also noting that the financing of projects already slated to go forward is taking extra time to get done,” he said.

Keith Martin, a lawyer with Chadbourne & Parke, said that a recent call he had conducted with bankers had yielded a consensus that the stimulus had generated more activity, if not yet money, in the renewables sector.

“There are lots of proposal letters and term sheets circulating,” he said in an e-mail message. “The mood is improving, but it has not translated yet into closing and fresh capital flowing into deals.”


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