$967 Million Fed Loan Goes To Arizona Solar

A nearly $1 billion federal loan guarantee to help build the giant Agua Caliente solar power plant in Arizona was finalized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), allowing NRG Energy to close its deal to acquire the plant from First Solar.

With a peak output of 290 megawatts, NRG called Agua Caliente “the world’s largest solar photovoltaic project now under construction.” The $967 million federal loan guarantee for the Yuma County plant was conditionally approved back in January. Under the federal loan guarantee program, should a project fail, the federal government would be held liable for debts that ultimately remain.

solar power plant, agua caliente, NRG

image via NRG Energy

As is customary with such projects, everyone involved touted its job-creating benefits. The DOE, citing NRG data, put the number of construction jobs at 400, but Tom Doyle, CEO of NRG Solar, said that because of the scope of the project that would be just the beginning. “The sheer scale of the project will also help drive developments needed to deploy even larger and more efficient clean-energy resources in the future,” Doyle said.

Concentrating solar or solar thermal projects – like the one in Spain that produced power around the clock recently – might be in vogue for utility-scale generation these days, but the DOE said Agua Caliente is pretty cutting-edge itself. The department noted it will “deploy fault ride-through and dynamic voltage regulation, innovative technologies that are new to photovoltaic solar power plants in the United States.” The Northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric Company will purchase power generated from the project, which is expected to be up and running in 2014.

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.