Two Large California Concentrating Solar Projects Get $2B Loan Guarantee

Two enormous solar concentrating power plants (CSP), to be sited in California, would double the amount of CSP in the US.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is offering nearly $2 billion in loan guarantees for two projects that would supply 250 MW each:  $1.2 billion for the Mojave Solar Project in San Bernardino County, California, and up to a $681.6 million for the Genesis Solar Project on Bureau of Land Management land in Riverside County, California.

Abengoa Solar Inc. (ABG.MC), the Mojave Solar project sponsor, estimates the project will create more than 830 construction jobs and 70 operating solar jobs.

NextEra Energy Resources, LLC (NYSE: NEE), the Genesis Solar project sponsor, estimates the project will create approximately 800 construction jobs and 47 operating jobs.

"Today’s announcement demonstrates the potential for the loan guarantee program to drive private investment for large-scale, clean-energy projects and create hundreds of jobs in California," says U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. "The loan guarantee for Abengoa Solar will finance a widely-supported and fully permitted solar plant on private, disturbed lands in San Bernardino County. The loan guarantee to finance NextEra’s project in Riverside County will enable construction of a large-scale solar plant in a county devastated by the economic downturn. Together these projects will create more than 1,700 jobs in California. I hope the Energy Department and OMB will finalize these loans as quickly as possible."

The 250MW Mojave Solar Project will be the first U.S. utility-scale deployment of Abengoa’s latest Solar Collector Assembly (SCA), a significant improvement over the prior generation of parabolic trough technology installed in the United States in the 1980s and 90s.

The SCA’s advanced features include a lighter, stronger frame designed to hold parabolic mirrors that are easier and less expensive to build and install. The Assembly was originally developed in connection with a DOE award provided by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The SCA heat collection element uses an advanced receiver tube to increase thermal efficiency by up to 30% compared to the nation’s first CSP plants. In addition, the advanced mirror technology will improve reflectivity and accuracy. Together, these improvements can permit the collection of the same amount of solar energy from a smaller solar field, DOE says.

Unlike older CSP plants, MSP will operate without fossil fuel back-up systems for generation during low solar resource periods.

The Mojave Solar Project will avoid over 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and is anticipated to generate enough electricity to power over 53,000 homes. Power from MSP will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

An estimated 80% of total costs, including both capital equipment and labor, are expected to be sourced in the U.S. as MSP will purchase all of the receiver tubes from a facility in New Mexico, the parabolic trough mirrors from a new facility in Arizona and other key equipment from different suppliers in several states across the country.

The 250MW Genesis Solar Project will feature scalable parabolic trough solar thermal technology that has been used commercially for more than two decades.

The project is expected to avoid over 320,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and produce enough electricity to power over 48,000 homes. Power from the project will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

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