With Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantees for renewable energy projects set to expire on Friday, the DOE announced awards for two major solar projects, and a geothermal, biomass and wind project.
Tonopah Solar Energy received $737 million for its concentrating solar Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada, and Mesquite Solar 1 received $337 for a solar PV project in Arizona.
The loan program is the same one that awarded a $535 million guarantee to Solyndra, a California-based thin-film solar manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy protection last month. House Republicans pounced on the bankruptcy as evidence of the Obama admininstration's failure to effectively oversee the program.
In reality, Solyndra was one of three US-based solar companies to declare bankruptcy recently, because of crushing competition from China, where low wages, generous subsidies and lax environmental standards have made it very difficult for US and EU-based solar companies.
Tonopah is preparing to build a 640-foot molten solar tower - the tallest in the world and the first in the US. The 110 MW concentrating solar plant will use molten salt as the primary heat transfer and storage mechanism. Crescent Dunes will suppy electricity for 43,000 homes while avoiding 290,000 metric tons of carbon emissions a year. It will create 600 construction jobs and 45 permanent solar jobs.
The Mesquite Solar 1 Project will be one of the first utility-scale PV power plants in the US to use domestically manufactured transformer-less and liquid-cooled inverter technology. The technology significantly raises energy output, improves reliablity and lowers operating costs.
The 150 MW plant will generate nearly 350,000 MW hours of electricity in its first year of production, enough to power nearly 31,000 homes while avoiding over 200,000 metric tons of emissions annually. The project, which is located about 45 miles west of Phoenix, is supported by a power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric.
Predictably, Republicans say the DOE is rushing projects through in advance of Friday's deadline, although funding recipients say due diligence has been extensive. Both projects have already signed long term contracts to sell the power to utilities.
Earlier, this month, DOE finalized a $150 million guarantee for 1366 Technologies to build a multicrystalline wafer manufacturing project in Lexington, Mass and a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for the 250 MW Mojave Solar Project in California.
DOE finalized a $105 million loan guarantee to support Project LIBERTY, one of the first commercial-scale cellulosic biomass plants in the US.
Sponsored by POET, it will be built in Emmetsburg, Iowa and is expected to produce up to 25 million gallons of ethanol a year.
Enzymes convert cellulose from corncobs, corn leaves and corn husks into ethanol, producing enough energy to power the plant and most of POET's adjacent grain-based ethanol plant.
POET plans to use this process in all its 27 grain-ethanol plants, for a total one billion gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. It's expected to generate $14 million in revenue to local farmers who will supply the feedstocks.
Ormat Nevada (NYSE: ORA) will receive a partial guarantee for a $350 million loan to support a 113 MW cluster of three geothermal plants. The project will increase Nevada's geothermal production nearly 25%. All the power will be sold to Nevada Power Company under three separate long-term power purchase agreements.
Finally, Granite Reliable Power will receive a partial guarantee for a $168.9 million loan for its 99 MW wind farm, that will be New Hampshire's largest.
Located in northern NH, 33, 3 MW turbines made by Vestas will power 20,000 homes.