April 20, 2011 - DOE offers $2.1 billion loan guarantee for CA solar projects

In recent weeks, I've looked at the Department of Energy's loan programs, how DOE's loan programs have helped financed renewable and low-emission energy projects, and how DOE's loan guarantee program is at risk from being cut from the contentious federal budget. I've also looked at California's recent enactment of a renewable portfolio standard requiring utilities to source 33% of their electricity from renewable power plants.

Seen earlier this year outside the Maine State House: Northeast Charter & Tour's "green machine", a 29-passenger hybrid coach.

Now, the Department of Energy has announced that it has offered a conditional commitment for $2.1 billion in loan guarantees for a pair of 242 MW concentrating solar thermal plants in California. Solar Trust of America, a joint venture of German companies Solar Millennium AG and Ferrostaal Inc., has started construction on the projects outside the city of Blythe, California, near where the I-10 interstate highway crosses east into Arizona. The ambitious Blythe solar project includes multiple phases that could add up to 1,000 MW of solar capacity.

DOE's conditional loan guarantee offer would help finance the first two units at Blythe, which would use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy to boil water in a closed loop. The resulting steam would spin turbine-generator sets to generate electricity. This technology is a variant on that planned for the 392 MW Ivanpah solar project (which itself benefits from $1.6 billion in Department of Energy loan guarantees). Helping complete the project's financial picture, So. Cal Edison Co. has entered into a PPA to buy the project's output.