US Department of Energy backs more concentrated solar power projects

Despite the US government’s high profile setback with failed solar energy developer Solyndra, the Department of Energy (DOE) has this week backed two major solar projects, as well as a geothermal energy, wind power and two biomass projects.

The DOE’s loan programme has confirmed a $737 million loan guarantee for Tonopah Concentrated Solar Thermal Power to support its Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada.

The 110 MW concentrating solar power plant (CSP) will feature the tallest solar tower in the world at 195 m and use molten salt as the heat transfer and storage mechanism. The centrated solar energy will generate enough electricity for 43,000 homes and avoid 290,000 metric tons of carbon emissions a year.

Meanwhile, Sempra Generation will receive a $337 million loan guarantee for its solar its Mesquite Solar 1 solar energy photovoltaic project in Arizona.

This 150 MW facility will generate enough electricity for 31,000 homes and avoid 200,000 metric tons of carbon emissions a year. Major US utility Pacific Gas & Electric has already entered into a power purchase agreement for the output of the plant.

The other projects being backed by the DOE are Ormat’s 113 MW cluster of three geothermal plants in Nevada, which will receive a partial loan guarantee of $350 million, and the Granite Reliable Power 99 MW wind farm in New Hampshire, which has been granted a partial guarantee for $168.9 million.

The backing for the wind farm will be good news for Vestas, who is contracted to provide 33 of its 3 MW wind turbines for the development.

The two commercial-scale cellulosic biomass plants to receive backing are the POET-sponsored facility in Iowa capable of producing 25 million gallons of ethanol, which has been approved for a $105 million loan guarantee; and Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass’s 23-million-gallons-a-year facility in Kansas, which has netted a $132.4 million loan guarantee.