BrightSource wins biggest U.S. loan guarantee ever $1.4 billion guarantee marks richest for alternative energy project

23/02/2010 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — BrightSource Energy Inc. has won a $1.4 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to build three concentrated solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, just weeks after the company scaled back plans to address concerns over the desert tortoise.

Ebony Meeks, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, said the support of BrightSource’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System marks the largest-ever loan guarantee for a renewable energy project by the federal government.

BrightSource Energy, which is backed by Google Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!goog/quotes/nls/goog (GOOG 564.21, -0.96, -0.17%) , BP /quotes/comstock/13*!bp/quotes/nls/bp (BP 55.85, +0.07, +0.13%) , Chevron /quotes/comstock/13*!cvx/quotes/nls/cvx (CVX 74.30, +0.06, +0.08%) and Morgan Stanley /quotes/comstock/13*!ms/quotes/nls/ms (MS 29.41, -0.01, -0.03%) , will generate 392 megawatts of electricity at the complex, which will use thousands of mirrors to focus the power of the sun to create steam that drives electrical turbines. It’ll produce enough power for about 140,000 homes, the DOE said.

Pacific Gas & Electric /quotes/comstock/13*!pcg/quotes/nls/pcg (PCG 42.64, -0.01, -0.01%) and Southern California Edison Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!eix/quotes/nls/eix (EIX 33.78, -.00, -.00%) signed up to buy power from the plants, which will be built by Bechtel and create about 1,000 construction jobs and 86 permanent jobs. Construction on the first plant is expected to begin in the second half of 2010.

“This is an investment in American jobs and the clean, renewable energy our economy needs,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. “We’re not going to sit on the sidelines while other countries capture the jobs of the future.”

The plants will be built on federal land in southeastern California, near the Nevada border, and will rank as the world’s largest concentrated solar power facility.

The loan guarantee comes after BrightSource announced on Feb. 11 plans to scale back the plant to address environmental concerns over the desert tortoise.

It’ll cut the potential number of mirrors in the project by about 40,000; reduce the number of towers in the complex to three from seven and cut the total gross capacity to 392 megawatts from 440 megawatts.

Barbara Boyle, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, said in press reports that the group will continue to work to site alternative energy projects “in the most environmentally responsible way possible.”

BrightSource must still receive regulatory approvals before it gets the loan guarantee, which will help the company obtain financing for the project.

One key review is already underway with under the Bureau of Land Management’s National Environmental Policy Act.

The loan guarantee program for BrightSource traces its roots back to 2005, but it received additional funding under the 2009 economic stimulus package. Solar firm Solyndra Inc. received a $535 million loan guarantee last year.



Entry filed under: Renewable Energy, Solar.

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