Big Blythe Solar Plant Funding Nears

In September, California approved the gigantic Blythe Solar Power Project. In October, the federal government gave the 1,000-megawatt (MW) plant its thumbs-up. And now the money to fund the first two units of the four-unit project appears to be on its way, with project developer Solar Millennium receiving a draft term sheet for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Corporate parent Solar Trust said its subsidiary wants to finance the first two units at Blythe, with a combined capacity of 500 MW, in 2011 using the DOE’s loan guarantee program. The company said “receipt of the term sheet is an important milestone as the DOE and Solar Trust work towards a conditional commitment and eventual financial close for the financing” of the project.

Solar Millennium, Blythe project, parabolic trough

image via Solar Millennium

Solar Trust didn’t reveal the precise size of the loan guarantee, but an earlier DOE document put the figure at $1.9 billion.

“The DOE’s Loan Guarantee program, along with the Treasury Department’s Cash Grant program, are both critical components of renewable energy financing for utility-scale solar projects in today’s market environment,” John Clapp, Solar Trust of America’s Chief Financial Officer, said in a statement.

Blythe will consist of four 250 MW plants that use “parabolic trough technology where parabolic mirrors are used to heat a transfer fluid which is then used to generate steam. Electricity is produced from the steam expanding through steam turbine generators.” Once at full capacity, it is believed the plant will double U.S. solar capacity and generate enough electricity to power more than 300,000 homes annually.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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