California Valley Solar Ranch, a 250-megawatt power plant that will use sun-tracking solar modules to boost its efficiency, snuck in under the wire today as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) worked feverishly to close loan guarantees. The project, set for San Luis Obispo County, won backing for $1.237 billion in financing under a renewable-energy development program that by statute must close its deals by the end of the day.

Just before the financing closed, NRG Energy completed a deal, announced late last year, to purchase the project from developer SunPower. However, SunPower will “complete the project’s design and construction, working with Bechtel,” NRG said.

California Valley Solar Ranch
image via SunPower

The DOE said the California plant would be “the largest utility-scale PV project in the U.S. to utilize tracking technology combined with an innovative monitoring system that will improve annual output by approximately 25 percent compared with traditional fixed PV installations.”

This financing deal joins a bushel of loan guarantees closing before the DOE’s Section 1705 program disappears. The program has been under fire in the wake of the Solyndra bankruptcy, with House Republicans expressing concern that the DOE would make “sloppy, poor investments in the final rush to get the cash out the door.”

Perhaps mindful of that concern, the DOE has added a paragraph of text to its late announcements, saying that “loan applications reviewed by the Department have undergone many months of due diligence and often receive bipartisan support,” and that it was “confident that supporting these projects will help American companies compete in the global clean energy market.”

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