DOE Grants $967M Loan Guarantee to Ariz. Thin-Film PV Project

NRG Energy last week received a $967 million federal loan guarantee for its 290-MW Agua Caliente thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solar project. When the Yuma County, Ariz., project, which began construction in 2010, is complete in 2014, NRG says it will be the largest PV generation facility in the world.

The Agua Caliente Solar project will deploy fault ride-through and dynamic voltage regulation, technologies that are new to solar power plants in the U.S., the DOE said on Thursday. “These technologies are designed to improve the reliability and predictability of the electricity generated by solar power plants and supplied to the electricity grid,” it noted.

NRG subsidiary NRG Solar acquired the project from thin-film solar panel maker First Solar last month, saying it would invest up to $800 million of equity in the project through 2014.

The project, located on 2,400 acres some 65 miles east of the city of Yuma, is being built on previously disturbed agricultural land, which was selected after an “extensive review of the available solar resource, proximity to existing electrical transmission lines, and current land uses,” First Solar says on its website.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has negotiated a 25-year power purchase agreement to buy electricity from the project for California consumers. Transmission access is expected to be provided by the existing Hassayampa-North Gila 500-kV transmission line adjacent to the site. A new regional switchyard proposed by the transmission owners will also be constructed on the site and be in service by winter 2011/2012.

All discretionary permits for the Agua Caliente Solar Project were obtained in 2009. The Yuma County Board of Supervisors approved zoning on Sept. 9, 2009, by a unanimous vote of 5-0. Additionally, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility permit on Sept. 22, 2009, by a unanimous vote of 5-0.

To date, the DOE, through its Loan Programs Office, has issued loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling more than $17 billion to support 17 clean energy projects. The Agua Caliente project is the third major subsidy granted to a solar project. Last year, the DOE gave BrightSource Energy a $1.4 billion loan guarantee for its 377-MW concentrated solar power project in California. It also gave Spanish firm Abengoa $1.45 billion for its 250-MW solar thermal plant in Arizona.

Sources: DOE, NRG Solar, First Solar, POWERnews

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