Abengoa has begun ramping up construction on its 280MW CSP Mojave Solar Project after the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) approved its power purchase agreement (PPA) with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).
Now the regulator has given a green light to the PPA, Abengoa can finally close financing on the US$1.2 billion federal loan it received from the Department of Energy back in July. Although, despite only receiving CPUC clearance on Thursday, preliminary work on the 1,765-acre site has been underway for several months, with 81 workers already laying the foundations for the pylons that will eventually hold the parabolic CSP troughs.
Mojave is one of the few 100MW-plus projects in the US to avoid getting bogged down in disputes with environmental groups and labour unions. However, reaching this stage has not been without difficulty. Several leading figures within the CPUC have openly campaigned against the development, claiming that not only is the 25-year PPA uncompetitive, but the solar trough technology used by Abengoa is outdated.
Nevertheless, by staying onside with the unions, environmental groups and the California Energy Commission, the Spanish developer has advanced the project to the development stage.
“Abengoa has invested five years and about US$70 million to get to the point where they are ready to begin construction,” the CPUC’s president, Michael Peevey, said. “To be rejected by the CPUC would send a chilling message to the business community, in my opinion.”
At present, Mojave has signed 24 contracts with 19 suppliers across six US states – 80% of the equipment, supplies and services used by Abengoa will be sourced in the US. Grid connection for the whole 280MW is scheduled for spring 2014.