Cuts to DOE Loan Program Could Set Back U.S. Solar Industry

Rueters-Maria Gallucci: Solar companies are warning that if Congress kills two major Department of Energy funding programs this spring, the country would squander the opportunity to exploit recent breakthroughs in solar energy development.

For Tenaska Solar Ventures in Omaha, Neb., a cut in DOE loan guarantees could mean losing two planned solar plants in Southern California, which in turn would halt operations at a new manufacturing facility for solar parts.

“It would kill off a number of projects that otherwise would have been created,” Tenaska spokesperson Bart Ford told SolveClimate News.

Through its CSOLAR Development subsidiary, the firm plans to supply 130 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) capacity from its Imperial Solar Energy Center (ISEC) South project.

A second 150-megawatt project at its ISEC West location would triple the amount of concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) capacity that research consultancy Strategy Analytics expects to be installed in the U.S. this year.

The facility is the largest power station of its kind to be announced worldwide, with potentially enough capacity to serve 55,000 California homes.

CPV currently accounts for 0.1 percent of the total domestic PV market, as the relatively new technology slowly begins to compete with traditional lower-cost silicon PV projects.

The technology, which is best suited to extremely sunny areas, uses optical lenses to concentrate sunlight onto high-efficiency solar cells. The panels are mounted on tracking systems to follow the movements of the sun’s rays.

Ford said that both projects have secured 25-year power purchase agreements from San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), and that pricing for the deals was based on receiving credit subsidies.

He declined to disclose the total costs of the projects or the amount of DOE funding on the table, explaining only that, “If the loan guarantee goes away, then likely our solar projects go away.”

Solar Surged in 2010 From Loan Guarantees

The DOE loan guarantees encourage investment in risky, innovative energy projects by ensuring financial institutions and project developers that the government will cover loans they cannot pay back.

read the rest of this article here