DFN: This is a ‘thin film solar’ panel large scale utility plant, using First Solar’s product. This is a conditional offer, they still have to get a formally approved and blessed by
various government entities (DOE, Treasury, OMB) term sheet.
Solar project gets $967 million loan commitment
January 20, 2011 9:38 PM
BY SARAH WOMER – SUN STAFF WRITER
The U.S. Department of Energy has offered a conditional loan commitment to the Agua Caliente Solar Project worth up to $967 million, according to U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva’s office.
This loan is to be used for the construction of a new solar power plant in Yuma County.
It has been projected that this plant will not only employ 400 people throughout the duration of the construction, but will also provide energy to approximately 100,000 homes through a contract with Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Additionally, the project will generate state and local tax revenues and create economic benefits for many local businesses.
Alan Bernheimer, spokesman for First Solar, the company developing the site, reported in a previous article with the Yuma Sun that the company is looking to provide employment opportunities for qualified local residents.
“We are going to do everything we can to afford local qualified residents an opportunity to get employment with the project.
“We typically will hire a series of subcontractors for different phases of the work, but we will ask them to hold job fairs and to do what is needed to make sure qualified local residents who have the skills have a good shot at the employment opportunities.”
Bernheimer added that NRG Energy Inc. agreed to acquire the Agua Caliente project from First Solar last month, but First Solar will continue to operate and maintain the project during its lifetime of about 25 years.
He said Thursday that the construction began at the end of 2010 but after the loan closing goes through sometime between April and June of this year, full-scale mobilization of the site and construction will take place.
“We’re very pleased with the support that the Department of Energy and the federal government is showing for large scale renewable energy and we’re taking it as a big vote of confidence,” he said.
The Agua Caliente Solar Project, located on 2,400 acres of farmland in Yuma County near the communities of Dateland and Hyder, will be a 290-megawatt generating facility.
“The plant will use thin film solar panels built by First Solar Inc., which is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz.,” stated a press release. “The clean power generated by the plant is estimated to prevent the release of 237,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road annually, according to DOE information.”
The project is expected to start delivering power to homes in 2012 and to be fully operational in 2014. After the project’s completion, it will be the world’s largest photovoltaic solar field.
“These projects are the kind of public-private partnerships that truly benefit the business community, the local economy and municipal authorities all at the same time,” said Grijalva in a press release.
All discretionary permits for the Agua Caliente Solar Project were obtained in 2009. The Yuma County Board of Supervisors approved zoning on Sept. 9, 2009, by a unanimous vote of 5-0. Additionally, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility permit on Sept. 22, 2009, by a unanimous vote of 5-0.
Sarah Womer can be reached at swomer or 539-6858.
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