Almost $5 billion in DOE loan guarantees for immense solar projects were finalized on the last day of the program.

The DOE completed a loan guarantee for the 550-megawatt (AC) Desert Sunlight Solar Farm and immediately sold the project to NextEra Energy. This is one of the world's largest photovoltaic solar power projects.

The 230-megawatt Antelope Valley solar farm finalized its loan and was sold to Exelon. According to the First Solar press release, "AV Solar Ranch One will employ First Solar's FS Series 3 PV Module and deploy its tracking system on a portion of the facility." This is likely the Raytracker product, acquired by First Solar in January for approximately $40 million.

Project Amp was also finalized, receiving a partial guarantee for a $1.4 billion loan. This project will allow the installation of up to 752 megawatts of solar panels, close to doubling the amount of PV installed in the U.S. in 2010.

Shayle Kann, Managing Director of GTM Research, said of Project Amp: "This is the largest portfolio of rooftop solar projects that has ever closed financing in the U.S. What remains to be seen is what portion of these projects are utility offtake vs. commercial, and whether the utility projects can actually win PPAs in the current competitive environment."

The DOE also finalized a $1.237 billion loan guarantee to support the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch Project in San Luis Obispo County, CA, sponsored by SunPower and just acquired by NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG). Construction of CVSR is in progress, and the first phase of the project looks to start generating power early in 2012.


On Thursday, the DOE finalized a $132.4 million loan guarantee to Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass for a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. Abengoa estimates the plant will create approximately 300 construction jobs and 65 permanent jobs. 


Earlier in the week the DOE finalized a $337 million loan guarantee to Mesquite Solar 1, part of a 700-megawatt photovoltaic project as well as for the Crescent Dunes solar thermal project which includes thermal storage for $737 million.

That's two down but there are seven more outstanding conditional commitments for solar projects. And two of them (SolarStrong and Topaz), as we've covered, are not going to make it.

Here's the list of projects that are likely leading to some long days and nights at these firms and at the DOE loan guarantee office -- in the free time they have that's not occupied by the Solyndra affair, that is.

Note that this deadline is just for the 1705 program and that projects using newer technologies like CPV or new inverters can take advantage of the 1703 program. This interview with Jonathan Silver of the DOE by the folks at GigaOM does a good job of explaining some of the intricacies of the loan guarantee program.

The two solar projects that have just reached the finish line are:

Sempra Generation's massive 700-megawatt Mesquite Solar project, located near Phoenix, Arizona with Zachry Holdings as the EPC and Suntech as the panel supplier for the initial 200-megawatt (DC) phase of the build. The project is located near the Hassayampa 500-kV switchyard, a major transmission hub with access to southwestern U.S. markets. Transmission upgrades and site grading for the entire project have been completed in advance on the flat, privately held land. A 20-year power purchase agreement has been signed with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for the first phase of the project. When completed in 2013, Mesquite Solar I will be one of the largest photovoltaic solar installations in North America. The project will use "a non-trivial" number of Pluto panels, Suntech's high-efficiency PV panels. Mesquite will use transformer-less and liquid cooled inverter technology from Advanced Energy.

SolarReserve of Santa Monica, California closed a $140 million venture round in 2008 and just closed a $737 million loan guarantee from the DOE for a 110-megawatt molten salt storage power tower with more than 10 hours of thermal energy storage. This will be the tallest molten salt tower in the world, according to the DOE website. The firm has the exclusive worldwide license to the molten salt power tower solar technology developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a division of UTC. SolarReserve has a power purchase agreement (PPA) with NV Energy for this project.

According to this chart from the Las Vegas Review Journal, the PPA price for the Crescent Dunes project is $0.135 per kilowatt-hour.


Here are some detailed stats on the Crescent Dunes project from the GTM Research CSP 2011 report, authored by Brett Prior.  The report contains similar data for all 170+ CSP projects worldwide.

Project Name Crescent Dunes
Developer SolarReserve
Status Development
Technology Power Tower
Capacity 110 MW
Country US
City Tonopah
State NV
County Nye
Total Capital Cost ($M) approx. $983
Capital Cost ($/W) $8.93/W
Capacity Factor 52%
Solar Resource (kWh/m^2/yr) 2685
Electricity generation (GWh/yr) 480 (EPC contract to guarantee 500)
Solar-to-Electricity Efficiency 17% to 18%
Acres 1600
Acres/MW 15
Cooling Method Hybrid
Owner ACS and Santandar
EPC Cobra Thermosolar Plants
Operator SolarReserve
Electricity Purchaser NV Energy
Receiver Manufacturer Pratt & Whitney
Construction job 600
O&M jobs 45
Field Aperture 1.10 million square meters
Tower Height (m) 165
Heat transfer fluid Molten salt
Inlet Temperature (°C)  288 °C 
Outlet Temperature (°C)  566 °C 
Temp Difference  278 °C 
Storage (hrs) up to 11 hours
Break ground Sept-11
On line Dec-2013
PPA Date Nov-09
PPA Rate ($/kWh)  $0.135/kWh 
PPA/Tariff Period (yrs) 25
PPA approved by PUC Y
Land Type Public
Fast-Tracked Y
Draft EIS 9/3/10
Record of Decision 12/21/10
Notes Thermal storage efficiency 99%


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