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10/03/2011 01:44 PM     print story email story  

DOE Awards Last Renewable Energy Loans

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Renewable energy supplied 12.25% of the energy used in the US in 2011, rising 15.01% from the same period in 2010, according to EIA's latest Monthly Energy Review. 

Renewables accounted for 11.05% of domestic production during the first half of 2010 and 10.50% in the first half of 2009. Biomass and biofuels accounted for 46% in 2011 followed by hydropower (37%), wind (13.4%), geothermal (2.3%), and solar (1.2%). Nuclear output dropped by 3.80%.

In the final days of the Dept of Energy (DOE) loan program, which expired at the end of September, it awarded another group of large guarantees that will increase the share of renewable energy significantly in the years ahead.

The loan program was part of the 2009 stimulus bill, intended to jumpstart the US clean energy industry, which now lags the world because of a lack of leadership under the Bush administration.

Taxpayers don't pay for the loans - they provide a guarantee that lenders will get their money back if the project fails. That makes them a low risk investment with the benefit of having reliable revenue, because all the power is sold under long term contracts.

SunPower Gets $1.2 Billion

SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA) is getting $1.2 billion for its 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch Project, in San Luis Obispo County, CA.

The alternating current solar PV plant uses tracking technology combined with an innovative monitoring system that improves annual output by 25% compared with traditional fixed PV installations. 

Single-axis trackers will be controlled by a wireless tracker monitoring and control system to orient the PV modules toward the sun and maximize solar collection.  The monitoring system receives real time weather updates so the solar array can be stowed in harsh weather conditions to preserve the life of the solar modules.  

Pacific Gas and Electric, the largest utility in California, has already bought all the power it will produce.

Project Amp Gets $1.4 Billion

Project Amp received a partial guarantee for a $1.4 billion loan to support installation of 752 MW of solar PV, which represents over 80% of all the PV installed in the US in 2010. 

Solar PV will be installed in 28 states on the roofs of 750 industrial buildings owned and operated by real estate developer Prologis. The electricity will go straight into the national grid and will create more than a thousand solar jobs over four years. 

"This is a remarkable project that will end up being the largest rooftop solar deployment in U.S. history," says DOE Secretary Chu.  "The project not only funds jobs across the country and makes solar power more cost competitive, it can also be a model for other rooftop solar projects of this magnitude and help the U.S. restore its leadership in the solar industry."

First Solar Gets Awards for 2 Projects, Sells Them

First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) got a $1.46 billion partial loan guarantee for the Desert Sunlight Project, a 550 MW project that's expected to be one of the world's largest solar PV plants. 

Located on public land in eastern Riverside County, California, its 8.8 million cadmium telluride thin film modules will  provide electricity for over 110,000 homes. 

It's being built in two phases. Phase I will generate 300 MW  which will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric, and Phase II will generate 250 MW, which will be sold to Southern California Edison. 

The $1.46 billion in loans that are partially guaranteed by DOE will be funded by a group of investors led by lead lenders  Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. 

Within hours of DOE's commitment, First Solar announced it would sell the project to NextEra Energy Resources (NYSE: NEE) and GE Energy Financial Services, which will each have a 50% stake.

First Solar also received a $646 million loan guarantee for the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 Project, a 230 MW alternating current cadmium telluride (Cd-Te) thin film solar PV plant near Los Angeles.  

Exelon Corp just announced it would acquire the project.

A third First Solar project did not receive a DOE guarantee, however, because there wasn't enough time to process the  required additional documentation by the September 30 deadline. It was in line for a $1.9 billion loan guarantee for the 550 MW Topaz solar farm in San Luis Obispo County.

DOE required additional documentation after the furor over its Solyndra loan guarantee, as well as a $527 million government loan to build a factory in Fremont.

Abengoa Gets $132 Million

Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, a division of Spain-based Abengoa (MCE:ABG) is getting a $132.4 million loan guarantee for its commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. 

The Kansas plant will convert 300,000 tons of agricultural crop residues such as corn stover into 23 million gallons of ethanol a year using an innovative enzymatic hydrolysis process. It expected to displace over 15.5 million gallons of gasoline a year, while providing power for the manufacturing plant. Over 90% of the components will be US-made. 

Last week, another handful of projects received DOE guarantees before the program expired. It's a shame this excellent program has come under such severe attack from the GOP to gain political points while undermining the viability of renewable energy in Americans minds.

Interestingly, the scandal they generated about Solyndra, hasn't changed peoples' positive perception of renewable energy, according to polls.

Of 650 Ohio voters surveyed after Solyndra's bankruptcy, just 11% say they've heard "a great deal" about it and couldn't talk about it any detail. California voters were more aware of the story, but still supported clean energy and considered Solyndra to be a bad apple rather than an indication of a systemic problem. 

Two-thirds of voters in the Ohio poll similarly said that one failed company shouldn't stop investments in clean energy. 43% of Republicans agreed with a statement that green job initiatives are a waste of government money, compared to 18% of Democrats. But that figure dropped to 35% among Republican women and 31% of Republicans who don't identify with the Tea Party.



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