The world’s largest solar PV project is now online near Phoenix, Arizona – Agua Caliente Solar Photovoltaic Facility.
Stretching over 2400 acres, the 290 megawatt plant will power 230,000 homes at peak production. Owned by NRG Energy and MidAmerican Solar, First Solar built the project using its thin-film panels and will maintain it. California utility PG&E is buying all the electricity under a 25-year power purchase agreement.
Recently, NRG spun off NRG Yield in an IPO, opening its solar holdings to all investors.
Key to the project’s financing was a $967 million loan guaranty from the US Department of Energy (DOE). In 2009, when Aqua Caliente was conceived, the financial markets couldn’t support it.
"The US has long been known for building at a scale previously never achieved: Hoover Dam was the world’s largest dam when it was completed, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) was the world’s tallest building for decades and the Library of Congress remains the largest library in the world. Today we add another innovation to that list, thanks in part to the Department’s Loan Programs Office, Agua Caliente," says Peter Davidson, Executive Director of DOE’s Loan Programs Office.
Amazingly, before 2009, the largest solar PV plant in the US was a mere 14 megawatts!
Other large-scale solar plants made possible through DOE’s loan program are:
- Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrating solar plant – $1.6 billion loan guarantee
- Solana concentrating solar plant, the first with energy storage – $1.4 billion loan guarantee
- Genesis concentrating solar- $852 million loan guarantee
Genesis also came online last week – a 250 MW project in Riverside County, California.
By the end of next year, all five DOE-supported utility-scale solar PV plants will be running, producing 1.5 gigawatts of power.