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Chu Lights a Fire Under DOE

The thing that seemed to shock Steven Chu most when he took over as secretary of energy—he talked about it constantly during his first month in office—was how long it took the Department of Energy to do anything. For example: One of the biggest tools that DOE has, when it comes to promoting green energy, is the ability to issue loan guarantees, making it possible for companies to borrow money for big projects that banks might otherwise find too risky. But it usually took DOE years to decide whether to issue these guarantees.

No longer. A month ago, Chu vowed that he would force DOE to move more quickly. And today, he claimed success, announcing that the agency would guarantee $535 million in loans to build a manufacturing plant for solar photovoltaic panels, which turn sunlight into electricity. Solyndra Inc., based in Freemont, California, plans to build the factory.