My conversation with Tim Geithner

So what if it was all in my head? It was fascinating …

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

Sustainable Space columnists Lori Brown and Greg Kallio are professors in the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management at Chico State University.

On a recent flight back to San Francisco from Washington, D.C., my seat mate was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. No, we were not in first class, but it was economy plus. It took a great deal of will power not to ask him to sign one of my leftover euros.

So, instead of talking with Mr. Geithner, since both of us stayed pretty well plugged into our iTouches throughout the trip, I kept a conversation in my head of all the things I would or could talk with him about. My conversation went something like this:

“So, Tim, how did the meeting with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the group of clean-energy developers and manufacturers you hosted at the White House to discuss how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is creating jobs and helping expand the development of clean, renewable domestic energy go?”

“Oh, that went pretty well, Lori,” he promptly replied.

“Cool. Good for you for getting the clean-tech execs all together to discuss renewable energy solutions,” I smartly responded, and then quickly added, “By the way, Tim, thanks for adding $550 million to the recovery act’s 1603 Program. That makes it about $1 billion awarded to date to companies committed to investing in domestic renewable energy production, right?”

At this point Tim’s noise-canceling headphones were on max and he was no longer listening to me, and that’s about all I could come up with in my pretend conversation to impress him, so instead Jackie Greene took over entertaining me.

Created under Section 1603 of the Recovery Act, the program Tim kicked the extra $550 million into provides cash assistance—that is, grants—to energy producers in lieu of the investment tax credit of up to 30 percent of qualifying project costs.

How is all this money helping the renewable-energy market? Here are some examples:

Sun Edison, North America’s largest solar-energy services provider, received its first grant in the amount of $992,000 for a 443-kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic solar system at Owens Corning’s facility in Kearney, N.J.

• At a site in Pittsburg, Calif., Ameresco, an independent energy-solutions company, is using a landfill to provide power to the city of Palo Alto. Payments awarded because of this project will allow Ameresco to accelerate its development of renewable-energy projects by a minimum of four additional domestic projects a year.

Solyndra, a manufacturer of photovoltaic systems for commercial projects headquartered in Fremont, Calif., is helping to provide energy to a building in downtown Denver through solar panels on the roof, a project that would not have been possible without recovery-act payments.

Vestas Americas, the world’s leading supplier of wind-power solutions, has made a significant investment in developing renewable energy in the United States. The company has allocated $1 billion for new manufacturing facilities throughout the country, and the 1603 Program will allow these facilities to be fully operational by 2011.

The 1603 Program does seem to be having an immediate effect on the renewable-energy industry by significantly increasing the availability and liquidity of project capital by providing grants, increasing the flow of money for projects, and attracting investment in American renewable-energy projects.

Hopefully Tim understood my meaning as we were deplaning and I raised my arm to offer him up a high five.