While groundbreaking developments in renewable power and energy innovation are nothing new in California, officials there were still no less eager to trumpet the state’s latest milestone in its ongoing quest to change the way power is generated and used.

The California Energy Commission closed out the summer season by announcing its approval of the first loan from the Clean Energy Business Financing Program (CEBFP). With funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the program provides $30.6 million in low-interest (2.75 percent) loans to eligible applicants that improve or expand their energy efficiency or renewable-energy manufacturing facilities in California.

The first loan, for $5 million, was approved to Calisolar, a Silicon Valley facility located in Sunnyvale. The loan will help the company purchase equipment to expand its manufacture of high performance photovoltaic cells. Calisolar is the only U.S. supplier of multicrystalline solar cells. It will use the loan funds combined with leveraged private funds to expand its solar-cell capacity production from 60 megawatts (MW) annually to 75 MW annually by December 2010.

Calisolar was selected based on merit, from a pool of 44 applicants, after a review of criteria including domestic job creation, impact on reducing pollution, potential for technological innovation and commercial deployment, and project time from certification to completion. Out of the original pool, the commission announced potential loans to seven companies, including Calisolar, in July.

The loans are part of the state’s larger Clean Energy Manufacturing Program, which is providing financing through a combination of state and federal stimulus funding to businesses, public/private partnerships, technology developers, academic institutions and others to encourage the production and manufacture of energy-efficient and renewable-energy components, systems and technologies, alternative and renewable fuels, and vehicles and vehicle components.