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DOE Offers $4.5 Billion in Conditional Loans for Three So. California PV Solar Power Plants

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July 05, 2011

DOE Offers $4.5 Billion in Conditional Loans for Three So. California PV Solar Power Plants

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

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U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced on June 30 that the Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded First Solar, America's dominant solar manufacturer, nearly $4.5 billion in conditional loan guarantees to support the construction of three Cadmium Telluride (Cd-Te) thin film photovoltaic (PV) solar generation facilities in Southern California.


Specifically, the DOE is offering a conditional commitment for a $680 million loan guarantee to support the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project, conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees of $1.88 billion to support the Desert Sunlight project, and conditional commitments for partial loan guarantees of $1.93 billion to support the Topaz Solar project

With the latest awards, First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, has nabbed a third of the $16 billion in loan guarantees the DOE has granted for solar generation to date. In January, First Solar was awarded a nearly $1 billion loan for its 290-megawatt Agua Caliente project in Arizona.

The Cd-Te thin film solar PV modules for the projects from a new First Solar manufacturing plant that is under construction in Mesa, Arizona; as well as from its recently expanded manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, which serves as its primary hub for engineering, and R&D.

First Solar expects the three projects, which should begin delivering electricity in 2014, to create 1,400 construction jobs in California. Combined, the three facilities would produce enough power to meet the yearly energy demands of more than 225,000 homes and avoid more than 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

“These projects will bring immediate jobs to California in addition to hundreds more across the supply chain,” said Secretary Chu.  “Together the projects will power hundreds of thousands of homes with clean, renewable power and increase our global competitiveness in the clean energy economy.”

The 230 megawatt (MW) AV Solar Ranch 1 project will be located in the Antelope Valley area of the Western Mojave Desert, approximately 80 miles north of Los Angeles.  The project is expected to generate 350 construction jobs and will feature a utility-scale deployment of innovative inverters with voltage regulation and monitoring technologies that are new to the U.S. market.  The inverters enable the project to provide more stable and continuous power, increasing the efficiency and reliability of large-scale solar power plants by more than 100 MW.  The facility is expected to generate over 622,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually – equivalent to powering over 54,000 homes – and to avoid more than 350,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year.  Power from the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

The 550 MW Desert Sunlight (News - Alert) project project is expected to generate 550 jobs during construction and will be located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in eastern Riverside County. The Desert Sunlight project is expected to use 8.8 million Cd-Te thin film solar PV modules, which are commercially proven and have been deployed since 2001.  The facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power more than 110,000 homes and will avoid more than 735,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.  Project construction will take place in two phases: Phase I will generate 300MW of power, which will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company; while Phase II will generate 250 MW of power, which will be sold to Southern California Edison.  The $1.88 billion in loans that are partially guaranteed by DOE will be funded by a syndicate of institutional investors and commercial banks led by lead lender and lender-applicant, Goldman Sachs Lending Partners LLC, which submitted the project under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP), and Citibank N.A. as co-lead arranger.

The 550 MW Topaz Solar project is expected to generate 500 jobs during construction and will be located in eastern San Luis Obispo County.  The Topaz Solar project will use over 8.5 million Cd-Te thin film solar PV modules and is anticipated to generate enough electricity to power 110,000 homes and avoid nearly 725,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.  The project's power will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company.  The $1.93 billion in loans that are partially guaranteed by DOE will be funded by a syndicate of institutional investors and commercial banks led by lead lender and lender-applicant, The Royal Bank of Scotland plc, which submitted the project under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP).

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Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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