$337M Sempra DOE Loan Guarantee Closes

You might say these are busy days at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Programs Office. At 12:32 p.m. EDT, it announced a $737 million loan guarantee for a solar power plant in Nevada had closed (our story on that is here). Then at 12:37 p.m., it posted another press release: The $337 million loan guarantee to help build Sempra’s Mesquite Solar I plant in Arizona was also good to go.

The Mesquite closing brought to a whopping eight the number of loan guarantees finalized this month, which also happens to be the last month of existence for the Section 1705 program under which this financing assistance is coming. Under current law, conditionally guaranteed loans that can’t be wrapped up by the end of this fiscal year – as was the case with deals with First Solar and SolarCity – will be lost.

mesquite solar power project, Sempra, loan guarantee

image via Sempra

As for the Mesquite plant, it’s set to go up roughly 40 miles west of Phoenix near Arlington, Ariz. The DOE said it will be “one of the first utility-scale PV power plants in the country to use U.S.-manufactured, innovative transformer-less and liquid cooled inverter technology,” a technology said to improve energy output and reliability, while reducing operating costs.

The plant will have a generating capacity of 150 megawatts (MW),  but Sempra isn’t planning to stop there; the plant is called “Mesquite I” because this is supposed to be the first of several phases that will comprise an entire complex anticipated to produce up to 700 MW of power. Even at 150 watts it would become the nation’s largest solar power plant, Sempra says – beating out the company’s 48-MW Copper Mountain plant in Nevada.

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.