The Department of Energy (DOE), on June 30, announced conditional commitment loan guarantees to support $4.5 billion in First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) projects in California, all of which are slated to start construction before the end of September. The loan guarantees are helping the projects attract additional private financing.
U.S.-based First Solar has been developing some of the largest PV plants across the world, but is now renewing its focus on its home market.
“The U.S. is our fastest growing market, with more than 2 gigawatts of projects that have power-purchase agreements with utilities, including these,” said First Solar spokesperson Alan Bernheimer. “We have said that we are diversifying our market base beyond Europe, to developing markets like the U.S., China and India.”
In all, the projects will create 1,400 construction jobs during the peak of construction.
“These projects will bring immediate jobs to California in addition to hundreds more across the supply chain,” DOE Secretary Steven Chu said in a press release.
The DOE is offering conditional commitment for a $680 million loan guarantee to support First Solar’s Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project. It is also offering First Solar partial conditional commitment loan guarantees of $1.5 billion to support $1.88 billion in loans for the company’s Desert Sunlight project and $1.5 billion to support $1.93 billion in loans to support the company’s Topaz Solar project.
The Antelope project is being financed through a loan from the Federal Financing Bank. That project is somewhat unique.
“The Antelope Valley project will be the first utility-scale plant in the U.S. to incorporate thin-film technology on tracker systems and will introduce innovative technology that will increase solar efficiencies and help make solar power more cost competitive,” said a DOE spokesperson speaking on background. It’s also using, new to the U.S., utility-scale inverters with voltage regulation and monitoring.
The Desert Sunlight project is being funded through a consortium of investors including Goldman Sachs Lending Partners LLC and Citibank N.A. The lead financier for the Topaz project is The Royal Bank of Scotland plc, according to a DOE press release.
Construction on the Antelope project is expected to start soon, Bernheimer said. And construction on the Desert Sunlight project and the Topaz project is expected to begin by the end of September.
“The DOE loan guarantees for these projects will support 1,400 local construction jobs and hundreds of U.S. manufacturing jobs, helping a growing U.S. solar industry take root and flourish,” Bernheimer said. “Utility-scale projects like these are the most cost-effective way to add solar PV to the grid.”
“DOE’s Loan Programs Office provides a crucial bridge for companies developing innovative and commercial clean energy projects at utility scale until the capital markets can support sustainable private financing,” the spokesperson said. “By supporting these projects, DOE will help accelerate the domestic commercial deployment of clean energy technologies at a size sufficient to contribute meaningfully to the achievement of our national clean energy objectives.”
Image courtesy of First Solar.