Stirling Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Files for Bankruptcy

Stirling Energy Systems (SES), maker of the SunCatcher concentrated solar thermal power (CSP) technology, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. SES was slated to supply its 25 kW Suncatcher technology for the 850 MW Calico Concentrated Solar Energy project in California, but project owners K Road Power Holdings decided that 750 MW of the project would use PV instead of Concentrating Solar Power. Following that decision, Pacific Gas & Electric (NYSE: PCG) terminated its power purchase agreement for Calico.

The developer reportedly sought a loan guarantee for the scaled-down 663 MW project but had not yet received one. Tessera previously owned the Calico project and sold that in December.

SES was also going to supply the technology for Tessera’s 709 MW Imperial Valley Solar project, but Tessera sold the project to AES Solar, a joint venture owned by AES Corp. and Riverstone Holdings LLC, in February. AES abandoned the plant after San Diego Gas & Electric terminated its PPA.

US Renewable Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch were prepared to provide $344 million in loans to SolarCity, 80% of which would be backed by a $275 million DOE loan guarantee. First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) is another casualty. It too can’t make the September 30 deadline to get a loan guarantee for its 550 MW Topaz solar farm in California, and is in talks to sell the project.

DoE did manage to finalize a handful of loan guarantees last week: $737 million for Tonopah Solar’s 110 MW concentrating solar thermal tower project in Nevada; $337 million for 150 MW Mesquite Solar 1 in Arizona; $350 million for Ormat’s (NYSE:ORA) 113 MW geothermal energy plant in Nevada; $105 million for Project LIBERTY, one of the first US commercial-scale cellulosic biomass plants; and $169 million for Granite Reliable Power’s 99 MW wind farm, New Hampshire’s largest.

Democrats and the clean energy industry argue the Republican-led investigation is more about scoring political points than anything else. "This is not about Solyndra, this is not about the loan guarantee program, this is about Republicans going after the president," says Marchant Wentworth, Union of Concerned Scientists.

China "frequently provides both zero-cost financing, occasionally free land and other kinds of incentives and subsidies" to its wind and solar companies, to capture a market which will be worth trillions of dollars," noted Jonathan Silver, executive director of DOE’s loan program, at a September 14 congressional hearing.

By José Santamarta,