DOE Loan Guarantees for Two CSP Projects

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CSP in the desert. Photo: Dii Desert Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy continues its commitment to making concentrated solar power (CSP) plants part of this country’s energy portfolio by inking almost $1.9 billion in loan guarantees for two California plants in development.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the conditional commitments to provide loan guarantees that will support two 250-megawatt CSP projects. One project receiving a $1.2 billion loan guarantee is the Mojave Solar Project, sponsored by Abengoa Solar in San Bernardino County, CA. The second CSP project, also in California, is the Genesis Solar Project, sponsored by NextEra Energy Resources in Riverside County, California is being offered up to a $681.6 million loan guarantee.

CSP systems use mirrors or lenses to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area. Electrical power is produced when the concentrated light is converted to heat that drives a heat engine, such as a steam turbineto generate electrical power.

This fiscal commitment ups the DOE loan guarantees for clean and renewable energy-producing projects and advanced technology vehicle manufacturing (AVTM) to $32.6 billion, reports Green Tech Solar, adding that the loan recipients claim to have added some 64,150 jobs in the process.

Both CSP projects are designed using parabolic trough solar thermal technology. The electricity that is produced will ultimately be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). Each project includes a 250-megawatt CSP plant.

The two plants will double the amount of US CSP-generated electricity, writes Paul Ausick, from 24/7WallSt. Estimates show the combined plants will avoid emissions of nearly 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

He adds that one of the negatives for developing large solar thermal plants is the amount of land that is required. A 500-megawatt plant needs more than 3 square miles of space. BrightSource Energy’s huge Ivanpah project, also located in the Mojave Desert, will need 6 square miles of land for 392 megawatts of capacity.

A number of PV executives today claim that CSP projects can’t be built without loan guarantees like those from the DOE.

“There are bound to be conflicts between environmental and energy interests when that much area is needed for a single project,” writes Ausick.

While it appears there are no perfect solutions yet in the pursuit of clean energy, all options on the table seem far better than our world’s present-day dependence on fossil fuels.

PHOTO: Dii Desert Energy

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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