Deputy Energy Secretary Poneman praises Shepherds Flat

Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said the sprawling Shepherds Flat wind farm is a renewable energy success and appropriate use of incentives.
Courtesy Caithness Shepherds Flat

Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said the sprawling Shepherds Flat wind farm is a renewable energy success and appropriate use of incentives. 

The U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman was in a car cruising across Oregon Wednesday afternoon headed for the giant Shepherds Flat wind farm.

The appearance wasn't connected with any news from the DOE, but served as an exclamation point to the Obama Administration's support for renewable energy.

Poneman has been mentioned — along with former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire — as a possible replacement for his boss, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who will leave his post.

Naturally, Poneman declined to speculate on his chances at nabbing Chu's job —"I've been very happy doing my job" — but was eager to talk about the $2 billion, 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat wind project.

"It's a great energy story, it's a good jobs story," Poneman said. "It's part of the restoration of the American supply chain. Now we're making 70 percent of the parts for these projects here."

The wind farm, developed by Caithness Energy and among the world's largest, started generating power in September.

In response to criticism that the project was overly subsidized, Poneman counters that it's instead a great example of a successful application of the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program.

Despite high-profile defaults — Solyndra, for one — Poneman said the $1.3 billion loan guarantee awarded to Caithness for Shepherds Flat did exactly what it was supposed to do.

"The whole purpose was to coax private capital off the sidelines," he said.

And it did. In 2011, a $500 million funding round for the project was announced, search giant Google headlined with a $100 million investment.

"It helped provide confidence to investors," Poneman said of the guarantee. "And this loan is getting paid in full and on time."

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