The Department of Energy (DOE) on Monday announced a conditional commitment for a $2.1 billion loan guarantee to support Units 1 and 2 of Solar Trust of America’s Blythe Solar Power Project. The two-unit 484-MW concentrating solar thermal plant will be built near Blythe, in Riverside County, Calif.

The loan guarantees are the precondition for financing some 75% of construction costs of the first two 242 MW power plants with borrowed capital from the U.S. federal government, said Solar Millennium, Solar Trust’s Germany-based parent company. The company already began construction of the parabolic trough power plants Blythe 1 and 2 at the end of 2010.

“In times of restrictive public budgets, I am particularly pleased that the US government is so clearly committed to the energy turnaround, in which our Blythe power plants will have a great share,” said Solar Millennium CEO Dr. Christoph Wolff. “For us this commitment is the most important prerequisite for entering into successful and detailed negotiations with institutional investors regarding their involvement in the two power plant projects.”

The total investment sum for the first two solar-thermal power plants projected in Blythe is about $2.8 billion. Among other conditions, this also includes the conclusion of a respective general contractor agreement and securing the equity share in total investment.

Units 1 and 2 of the Blythe project represent the first phase of a larger project that, when completed, is expected to have a rated generating capacity of 1 GW. Units 1 and 2 will include HelioTrough collectors, which feature a larger, yet simplified design, making them less expensive to build and install, and more efficient than earlier trough technology, the DOE said.

According to the DOE, the project will also be the first concentrating solar power (CSP) parabolic trough plant to use an air-cooled condenser unit—which will decrease water use by nearly 90% compared with a water-cooled CSP facility. The project will sell all its electricity output to Southern California Edison and deliver power into the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) power grid.

The final building permit for all of the four power plants projected at the Blythe location were granted in fall 2010.

The DOE’s Loan Programs Office have so far issued loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling more than $21 billion to support 22 clean energy projects across 14 states.

Sources: POWERnews, DOE, Solar Millennium