Right on the heels of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) announcement  that it has finalized $1.6 billion in loan guarantees for the Ivanpah solar thermal project, comes this news that the department has arranged a new, conditional commitment for a $1.187 billion loan guarantee to support another huge solar project in California.

The loan guarantees are for the California Valley Solar Ranch project which is being built in San Luis Obispo County, CA. The power plant is being sponsored by Sunpower, and reportedly involves a 250 megawatt alternating current PV solar generating facility. The project’s solar panels will be connected to single-axis “sun trackers” that are controlled by a wireless tracker monitoring and control (TMAC) system which will adjust the  PV modules so that they are constantly directed at the sun, thus maximizing solar collection. The TMAC system also uses real time weather updates that will queue it to stow away the solar array before harsh weather moves in.

San Luis Obispo Solar Tracker
image via Sunpower

Sunpower says construction on the facility could begin in the second half of 2011, but a start date is contingent on permitting and financing. If things go Sunpower’s way, a portion of the project could begin operations by the end of 2011, with the balance coming on line in 2012 and 2013. The DOE states that the new Solar Ranch is expected to create 350 jobs during construction, and employ a staff of 10-15 when fully operational. When complete, the facility should generate enough electricity to power approximately 100,000 homes and, according to Sunpower, will be one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar power plants in the world. California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company is reportedly purchasing all of the output from the new facility.

NRG Energy, which has its hands in the Ivanpah facility to the tune of $300 million, is reportedly assuming all ownership and financing responsibilities for the project, subject to certain conditions. SunPower will design, build, and initially operate and maintain the solar power plant.

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