DOE finalizes loan guarantee for Agua Caliente PV project, First Solar closes sale to NRG

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The continued construction and eventual interconnection of what will be the world’s largest solar PV power plant now seems assured. The US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has finalized a $967 million loan guarantee for the 290MW (AC) Agua Caliente solar project in Arizona, thus triggering the purchase close of the project by NRG Energy from First Solar, which was contingent on the closing of the guarantee.  

The project, which is already under construction in Yuma County, AZ, has obtained all permits and approvals from both federal and state agencies.

First Solar, which will be the EPC provider for the project, said during its second-quarter conference call on August 4 that a significant amount of balance of systems gear has been deployed and that some of its CdTe thin-film modules have already been installed at the 2400-acre site.

“The project commenced construction in Q3 2010 (switchyard site preparation and access road construction) and continued with post installation in 2011,” First Solar’s Alan Bernheimer told PV-Tech. “The project will be constructed through Q1 2014, when the full 290MW are expected to be completed.”

“The project construction schedule will be slightly slower in 2011 than in 2012 and 2013 to accommodate a late 2011 transmission interconnection. The project is expected to synchronize with the power grid and start to sell initial power under its power sales contract with PG&E in late 2011 or early 2012,” he said.

Up to 400 construction jobs will be created through the project’s completion date in 2014 as well as 10 full-time permanent positions at the power plant.

The Agua Caliente project will deploy fault ride-through and dynamic voltage regulation, innovative smart-grid technologies that are new to PV power plants in the United States.

Electricity from Agua Caliente will be sold under a 25-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric. At full capacity, the electricity generated by the PV project will be enough to serve more than 225,000 homes and will offset approximately 5.5 million metric tons of CO2 over 25 years.

Financial terms of the sale of the project were not disclosed, although First Solar said during its earnings call that it should begin recognizing revenue from the sale in the third quarter.

When the deal was announced in December 2010, NRG said it planned “to invest up to $800 million of equity in the project through 2014 through a potential combination of cash on hand in addition to third-party investor equity.”


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