Tom Cheyney is director of content and market intelligence for Impress Solar Labs, a division of Impress Labs, an integrated marketing/PR firm based in Phoenix, Arizona USA. He has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and marketer in the semiconductor, nanotechnology and clean energy fields. Before joining Impress, Tom was senior contributing editor for PV Tech and Photovoltaics International.
(Update 2) On the last official day of the Section 1705 loan guarantee program, the US Department of Energy has been busy announcing the finalization of several awards. The big winners are First Solar and its owner-partners, which saw more than $2.1 billion in partial or complete loan guarantees awarded for the 550MW (AC) Desert Sunlight and 230MW (AC) Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR) projects in California. The biggest single project earning a loan guarantee, Prologis and NRG’s Project Amp ~752MW rooftop plan, was awarded a partial guarantee of $1.4 billion. The other awardee was SunPower, which received a guarantee of $1.237 billion for the 250MW (AC) California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR) site.
AES Solar subsidiary AES Illumina closed on a loan and financing package and has begun construction of a 24MW PV power plant in Guayama, Puerto Rico, said to be the largest solar power installation yet to be undertaken on the island. Global Energy Services will act as the primary construction contractor on the project.
Three solar photovoltaic power plants, with 50MW of combined installed capacity, have been commissioned as the first phase of Pacific Gas and Electric’s five-year program to speed up the delivery of more clean energy to its customers. The trio of ground-mount solar stations—Stroud (20MW), Westside (15MW), and Five Points (15MW)—are located in Fresno County, CA.
As the Sept. 30 deadline for closing loan guarantees approaches, the US Department of Energy has finalized another one, this time for $337 million for the 150MW (AC) Mesquite Solar 1 power plant in Arizona. The project is owned by Sempra Energy, which has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to sell the electricity generated to Pacific Gas & Electric.
Two top executives of controversial thin-film PV company Solyndra won't be offering any substantive testimony before a Congressional subcommittee hearing scheduled for Friday. The company has issued a statement that, because of the ongoing investigation and on the advice of their lawyers, president/CEO Brian Harrison and CFO Bill Stover will invoke their constitutional Fifth Amendment rights, which protects citizens from self-incrimination.
Member companies of large South Korean conglomerate SK Group have agreed to invest $50 million in HelioVolt to collaborate on technology development and help the CIGS thin-film PV company expand its manufacturing capabilities. While confirming that the funds are an equity investment in the Austin, TX-based firm, company chairman BJ Stanberry would not disclose to PV-Tech what ownership percentage the SK outlay represents.
Regional utility company Arizona Public Service has issued a request for proposal to solar developers and installers to build a 17MW photovoltaic power plant, using commercially proven technology, which will be financed by APS through the company’s AZ Sun Program. When completed in 2013, the new plant will be owned and operated by APS and is expected to provide electricity to more than 4,000 Arizona homes.
On the occasion of the grand-opening ceremony of its manufacturing facility in Mississippi, thin-film PV company Stion also announced that the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has verified 14.1% conversion efficiency for its monolithically integrated CIGSSe modules manufactured at its San Jose headquarters facility. Production on the new factory line will begin later this year.
In an effort to further improve testing standards for PV modules, Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Studies and Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems have launched of the PV Module Durability Initiative (PVDI), which they say will offer a more robust testing protocol for a wide range of modules, exceeding the demands of IEC standard module certification. The first testing according to the new protocol will begin in October.
The US Department of Energy has finalized another loan guarantee, this time for $90.6 million to Cogentrix for the 30MW Alamosa Solar Generating Project, which uses Amonix high-concentration PV dual-axis tracker systems. When the utility-scale installation is completed next year, the site will be the largest CPV-based power plant in the world.
News outlets are reporting that Federal agents executed search warrants Thursday morning at Solyndra’s headquarters in Fremont, CA. The San Jose Mercury News and Associated Press say that the search is a joint operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General. FBI spokespeople would not comment on the purpose of the search or other details. The Mercury News reports that there are “indications” that the agents are interviewing some of the remaining 100 or so company employees who make up a transition team.
In what’s likely to be one of many similar announcements over the next few weeks, the US Department of Energy awarded another conditional commitment for a partial loan guarantee, this time for $344 million to a program that will bring solar PV to tens of thousands of residential and other rooftops on US military bases. The project, code named SolarStrong, will be led by SolarCity, with USRG Renewable Finance acting as lead lender in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Less than a week after shutting down manufacturing operations, Solyndra followed through on its announced intention to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The beleaguered CIGS thin-film PV firm said it hopes to reorganize and find a buyer and would like to avoid liquidating its assets.
The US Export-Import Bank will provide First Solar with $455.7 million of loan guarantees to construct a pair of solar PV power projects in Ontario, Canada. The bank will guarantee a $236.7 million loan for a 50MW plant to be built near Amherstburg, Belmont, and Walpole townships, and another $219 million loan for a 40MW farm slated for construction in St. Clair. The debt will be repaid over 18 years.
In the Department of Energy’s latest move to help foster the next generation of solar technologies and strengthen the US position in the field, more than $145 million will be allocated for 69 projects in 24 states in a variety of disciplines as part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative. Funded through the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE hopes the projects will accelerate R&D to increase efficiency, lower costs, advance cutting-edge technologies, as well as improve materials, manufacturing processes and supply chains for a wide range of photovoltaic cells and components of solar energy systems.