Obviously, there’s a point to this. That is, I hope that the infographic will be broadly useful to people who support the program: I figure everyone should be interested to know where the money went. (And here’s a spreadsheet for those who want to trundle through the data themselves). But I have highlighted what jumped out at me: most of the money has gone to enormous companies that should have no trouble accessing capital. Established utilities, large multinational auto manufacturers, a global warehouse owner. The bulk of these funds are not going to rectify some gap in the capital markets. They’re straight subsidies to huge corporations. Even some of the smaller firms/deals are owned by large corporations like Total SA.
Giving large, established companies extra-cheap loans to build power plants, run transmission lines, and fix up the roofs of their warehouses is, in the immortal words of P.J. O’Rourke, like paying a Dairy Queen owner to keep his ice cream freezers on.
This has implications for the default rates. The genuine startups seem to be shaky–it’s not just Solyndra, but also Nevada Geothermal and Brightsource. In other words, the firms that actually need the money are likely to experience a far higher default rate than the overall portfolio.