DOE Offers $2.3B in Loan Guarantees to CSP Projects, Geothermal Project

The Department of Energy in the past week made three more conditional loan guarantee offers: $2 billion to support two concentrating solar power (CSP) projects in California—the Mojave Solar Project in San Bernardino County and the Genesis Solar Project in Riverside County—and a $350 million partial loan guarantee for an Ormat-owned Nevada geothermal project.

Billions for Solar
The conditional loan guarantee commitments announced on June 14 include $1.2 billion for Abengoa Solar’s Mojave Solar Project and up to $681.6 million for NextEra Energy’s Genesis Solar Project. Both projects have a nameplate capacity of 250 MW.

The Mojave project will be the first U.S. utility-scale deployment of Abengoa’s latest parabolic trough technology—the Solar Collector Assembly (SCA)—which is thought to be a significant improvement over the prior generation of parabolic trough technology installed in the U.S. in the 1980s and 90s. The SCA was developed with DOE funding. “The solar collector assembly heat collection element uses an advanced receiver tube to increase thermal efficiency by up to 30% compared to the nation’s first CSP plants,” the DOE said. It added: “Advanced mirror technology will improve reflectivity and accuracy, allowing collection of the same amount of energy as older technologies from a smaller footprint.”

The Genesis project, which will be built on a federal land in Riverside County, features scalable parabolic trough solar thermal technology that has been used commercially for more than two decades. Power from that project will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Geothermal Project Gets DOE Commitment
Last week, the DOE announced a partial guarantee of a $350 million loan for Ormat Nevada’s 121-MW geothermal project, which is expected to produce power from three geothermal units in Jersey Valley in Pershing County, McGinness Hills in Lander County, and Tuscarora in Elko County.

The geothermal facilities feature Ormat Energy Converter (OEC) modules (already in use around the world). OECs employ a binary organic Rankine cycle, with hot water drawn from wells deep below the Earth’s surface. The water’s thermal energy is used to heat a secondary fluid that is vaporized and then forced through a turbine to generate electricity. The OEC modules typically consist of pre-engineered units that include an integrated vaporizer, preheater, turbine-generator set, condenser and feed pump, all of which work together to convert the geothermal energy to electric power.

The DOE said Ormat’s technology merited the funds because “unlike coal-fired and natural gas-fired power generation plants, geothermal plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions.”

The project’s total output is expected to be sold to Nevada Power Co. under a long-term power purchase agreement.

Just a day before that loan guarantee announcement, the DOE said it had made available up to $70 million over three years for technology advancements in geothermal energy. “DOE is targeting innovations in exploration technologies to locate geothermal resources, as well as in improvements in resource characterization, drilling, and reservoir engineering techniques. The goal is to reduce upfront costs and lower the price of geothermal energy,” it said.

The funding opportunity will support DOE’s partnerships with industry, national laboratories, and academia, and it will advance key technologies, including advanced exploratory drilling to reduce costs; advanced well completion; tools to isolate fracture zones within a well by working to control injection and production of water in geothermal systems; observation tools and data collection systems for reservoir stimulation; geophysical exploration technologies such as remote sensing and advanced seismic surveying to locate hidden resources; and geochemistry and rock-fluid interactions.

Sources: POWERnews, DOE

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