DOE finalizes US$197 million loan guarantee for SoloPower to build out CIGS manufacturing

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The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) latest loan guarantee comes in the form of US$197 million to SoloPower for the construction and operation of its two CIGS thin-film production facilities in Portland, Oregon and a single site in San Jose, California. The last DOE loan guarantee was issued in early August in the form of US$967 million for the 290MW Agua Caliente project in Arizona.

In May, SoloPower advised that it would be relocating its CIGS thin-film sites from Wilsonville, Oregon to north Portland after it foresaw possible hurdles when opposition was brought forth after the city proposed a US$11 million pledge to SoloPower. The two Portland-based facilities, along with the San Jose location, will bring SoloPower’s combined annual production of its thin-film PV modules to 400MW.

In other DOE relations, Solar Millennium advised that it would be bypassing its US$2.1 billion loan guarantee from the DOE for its Blythe 1 and 2 projects in California. The news comes after the company announced that it planned to construct the first two-250MW plants at the Blythe site in the form of PV, no longer using the originally proposed CSP parabolic trough power plants. 

Dr. Christoph Wolff, CEO of Solar Millennium, explained the decision, stating, “At the moment, the US market is clearly focused on peak load supply. Due to the drastic drop in PV prices, we agreed with the Californian utility to convert the power purchase agreements to PV”. Wolff continues, “The simultaneous sudden price increases for raw materials and construction would have reduced our return on equity and risk provisioning for our construction share in the Blythe CSP project to marginal values. Against this backdrop, we made the entrepreneurial decision a few days ago to focus on PV in the US In anticipation of this market development, our US subsidiary built up the respective expertise early on. This enables us to meet the specific needs of the US market.”

Wolff concluding, commenting, “The decision to use photovoltaics in Blythe does not mean the Solar Millennium Group is turning away from its core technology of solar-thermal power plants. According to our understanding, the market differentiates between base load solar-thermal electricity generation or concentrated solar power on the one hand and photovoltaics for peak load demand on the other. Whereas the electricity from solar-thermal power plants was more economic only less than two years ago, this relation has changed completely due to the sharp drop in PV module prices, particularly from Asia. Due to its suitability for base load supply, many regions still attach great value to CSP in their energy mix, thus supporting the Solar Millennium Group’s growth opportunities.”

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