Abengoa Gets $1.45B Federal Loan Guarantee for Ariz. CSP Plant

The Department of Energy (DOE) last week offered a $1.45 billion conditional loan guarantee to Spain’s Abengoa to finance the construction and start-up of a concentrating solar power (CSP) generating facility in Solana, Ariz. The facility, which Abengoa claims will be the “largest CSP plant in the world,” will use the first six-hour thermal energy storage system in the U.S.

The 250-MW parabolic trough plant planned for construction by Abengoa Solar near Gila Bend, and an associated 230-kV transmission line, recently obtained the DOE’s clearance following a lengthy environmental assessment. The DOE considered 286 pages of referenced impact statements that covered most reasons to obstruct it—but found none that would have a “significant affect [sic] on the human environment.”

Essentially, the plant will use curved mirrors to direct sunlight onto receiver tubes that will heat molten salt to over 700F. The system’s heat will turn steam turbines. The thermal energy storage is expected to provide power during cloudy days and evenings. Electricity from the project will be sold through a long-term power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Service Company.

The Solana project will bring the total amount of CSP supported by DOE to nearly 650 MW. The loan guarantee was announced by President Barack Obama in his video address last week.

Abengoa said that the loan guarantee could allow the company to begin construction of the plant this year. “What the project needs now is for Maricopa County and the state to continue their support and work expeditiously on the last remaining permits needed for construction to begin,” Abengoa Solar CEO Santiago Seage said.

The company emphasized that it would prioritize the use of U.S.-made components wherever possible for the Solana plant. “More than 75% of the equipment and supplies required to build Solana will be manufactured in the U.S.,” it said. “These include steam generators, heat exchangers, power equipment, glass, steel, concrete and other construction materials.” It also said it would employ some 1,600 workers during construction and will create more than 80 skilled permanent jobs during operation.

Additionally, two assembly factories will be constructed on the Solana site, and as a result of Solana’s need for more than 900,000 mirrors, a new mirror manufacturing facility will be sited just outside Phoenix in Surprise, Ariz.

In late 2009, Abengoa Solar signed a power purchase agreement in California to supply electricity generated by a 250-MW CSP trough plant located in the Mojave Desert, 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The company also has several projects under development in the Southwest. Abengoa Solar is currently building 350 MW of solar plants worldwide, and with an additional 142 MW already operating, it is the only company worldwide building and operating both trough and power tower CSP plants.

The Solana plant will be Abengoa Solar’s 10th CSP plant worldwide.

Sources: DOE, Abengoa Solar, POWERnews

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