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US lends US$1.4bn for CSP

The US Department of Energy (DoE) will support construction of three utility-scale concentrated solar power plants.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the conditional commitments for US$1.37 billion in loan guarantees to BrightSource Energy will support 400 MW of capacity using the company’s concentrated solar power technology. This capacity will double the existing generation capacity of concentrated solar power in the USA.

The three-plant Ivanpah Solar Complex will be located on federally-owned land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California, near the Nevada border, and could be the world's largest operational concentrated solar power complex.

Thousands of heliostats

BrightSource's technology will use thousands of heliostats on the three concentrated solar power fields, with each heliostat using two mirrors to track the sun in two dimensions, allowing capture of more solar energy than other solar thermal technologies. Construction of the complex will employ 1000 workers and operation will create 86 permanent jobs.

The first plant is expected to start construction in the second half of this year and to be online by 2012. Commercial operation for the second concentrated solar power plant is slated for mid-2013 and the third for later that same year.

Output from the project will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements with Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison Company. The project will be connected to the grid through an upgraded SCE transmission line.

Funding under ARRA

DoE funding will be provided under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. The conditional commitments contemplate that Federal Financing Bank will provide the financing for the concentrated solar power project.

The loan guarantee is conditioned on financial and environmental requirements which BrightSource must meet before closing on the loan, including local, state and federal regulatory approvals. The Bureau of Land Management will lead a National Environmental Policy Act review with support from the DoE.

This is the 6th conditional commitment for a loan guarantee for renewable energy projects entered into by DoE’s Loan Programs Office, which manages the green energy loan portfolio.

BrightSource’s Luz Power Tower system stems from its experience building nine solar electric generating stations in California between 1984 and 1990. These 9 concentrated solar power plants represent 80% of the commercial solar thermal energy produced in the USA today.

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