DOE Offers $919M in Loan Guarantees to PV, Wind Projects, Solar Manufacturers

The Department of Energy (DOE) doled out several loan guarantee offers worth a combined $919 million in the past week. Recipients of the conditional commitments include Mesquite Solar 1 for the development of a 150-MW photovoltaic (PV) solar project in Arizona; Calisolar Inc. to help commercialize its silicon solar manufacturing process; 1366 Technologies to develop a multicrystalline wafer-manufacturing project, and Granite Reliable Power for a 99-MW wind project.

A $359M Loan Guarantee for PV Alternating Current Plant
Last week, the DOE conditionally offered a $359.1 million loan guarantee to Mesquite Solar 1 to support the development of a PV solar generating project in Arizona. The optimized 150-MW alternating current project is sponsored by Sempra Generation and is located about 45 miles west of Phoenix.

The DOE said the project will be one of the “first U.S. large-scale utility PV power plants to use U.S.-manufactured innovative transformerless and liquid-cooled inverter technology, which allows for significant improvements in energy output.” The project is anticipated to generate nearly 350,000 MWh of power in the first full year of production. Power from the project will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

DOE Loan Guarantees to Support Solar Manufacturing
On Thursday, the DOE offered a loan guarantee of $275 million to Calisolar Inc. to commercialize its solar silicon manufacturing process. “Calisolar’s process should produce silicon for use in solar cells at less than half the cost of traditional polysilicon purification processes,” the agency said. At full production, the manufacturing plant is expected to produce 16,000 metric tons of solar silicon annually. The project will be built in three phases and is expected to be located in a former General Motors stamping plant in Ontario, Ohio.

The project is expected to manufacture solar silicon from lower-cost metallurgical grade silicon feedstock that is upgraded using Calisolar’s proprietary silicon purification process, which uses significantly less energy to produce solar silicon that performs as well as polysilicon products made from more expensive and energy-intensive traditional processes, the DOE said.

On Friday, the DOE offered another $150 million loan guarantee to 1366 Technologies Inc. The company will develop a multicrystalline wafer-manufacturing project capable of producing approximately 700 MW to 1,000 MW of silicon-based wafers annually using a manufacturing process called "direct wafer." The DOE said that the process could reduce manufacturing costs of the wafers by approximately 50%. Phase 1 of the project will be located in Lexington, Mass. The company is evaluating site locations for another planned phase, which it anticipates will create hundreds of additional jobs.

The original development of the company’s direct wafering technology was supported with a $4 million grant from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program and a $3 million grant from the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Program.

The new process condenses four manufacturing steps into a single step and greatly reduces silicon waste by forming individual wafers directly from a pool of molten silicon. A thin sheet of silicon freezes inside the direct wafer furnace and is then removed and laser-trimmed to size.

“At full production, the entire wafer-formation process is completed in just a fraction of the time required by conventional batch processing, which can take up to three days,” the DOE said. “The company’s one-step system requires 90% less energy and results in an industry-standard product that can be used by any standard multicrystalline cell manufacturer.”

A $135.76 Loan Guarantee for New Hampshire’s Largest Wind Farm
Earlier this week, the DOE offered a conditional $135.76 million loan guarantee to Granite Reliable Power for a new wind generation project. The 99-MW project will be located approximately 110 miles north of Concord, N.H.

The project will consist of 33 Vestas 3-MW wind turbines. The majority of the power from the project will be sold to Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power.

To date, the DOE’s Loan Programs Office has issued loans or loan guarantees, or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees, totaling over $33 billion to support 36 projects across the U.S.

Sources: POWERnews, EERE

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