Launch of world’s largest PV plant drives home the pro-ITC message

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

US interior secretary Sally Jewell yesterday flipped the switch on Desert Sunlight, the 550MW PV power plant built by First Solar that for a few months at least will be the world’s largest.

Jewell attended a ceremony at the Riverside County, California site, during which the vast project was officially inaugurated.

The US Department of Energy marked the occasion by publishing a report yesterday highlighting the key role played by its Loan Programs Office (LPO) in supporting the first wave of ultra-large utility-scale solar plants in the US.

Desert Sunlight is the last project to reach completion of a batch five plus-100MW utility PV plants that were supported by the LPO through a US$4.6 billion loan guarantee programme.

As the report details, the guarantees were awarded in 2008, when the US had only 22MW of utility solar capacity in the ground and experts, including the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), were predicting only a small market for PV at this scale; the EIA projected just 140MW of utility-scale PV would be built by 2015.

The guarantees enabled a clutch of huge projects – Agua Caliente, Antelope Valley, California Valley, Mesquite and Desert Sunlight – to fill the gap created by the lack of commercial lenders willing at the time to provide the loans needed to make such big and potentially risky plants viable.

The completion of Desert Sunlight brings the total capacity now online as a result of the loans to just over 1.5GW. But perhaps more important has been the wider impact of the loan programme on the utility-scale solar market in the US.

According to the DOE’s report, since the five projects received the backing of the LPO, 17 further projects larger than 100MW have been financed, without the need for support through the programme. This represents around 3.6GW of new capacity, while overall utility PV capacity in the US had reached a cumulative 8.1GW by the third quarter of 2014, according to the report.

At the same time, power purchase agreement costs for utility-scale solar have decreased by 60% between 2008 and 2014, underlining the extent to which the financial community has become more comfortable with investing in PV power plants.

As a symbol of how far attitudes towards utility-scale solar have changed in the US, there can be few better than the Solar Star project being built by SunPower, also in California. At 579MW this project will overtake Desert Sunlight when it is completed later this year as the world’s largest project. Significantly, unlike Desert Sunlight, it has been built without support from the LPO.

“Without question, the Energy Department’s Loan Program Office has helped to grow the US solar industry, jump-starting the widespread development of utility-scale solar,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in a statement following the publication of the report.

“With an estimated 20GW of solar capacity currently installed in the United States, and another 20GW in the pipeline for 2015-16, it’s clear that clean, renewable solar energy will play a major role when it comes to powering America’s future. We congratulate the Energy Department on its successful programme and look forward to working with policymakers, regulators and lawmakers nationwide on new ways to increase the development of solar in the future.”

Solar propaganda

Indeed, the success of the loan guarantee programme highlighted by the report may provide the US solar industry some useful ammunition as it gears up to help push through the proposal last week by President Obama to retain the solar investment tax credit (ITC) at current levels.

The ITC has arguably had an even more profound impact in driving up capacity and driving down the cost of solar in the US than the loan programme, but faces being cut from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016 unless Obama's proposal wins through.

As a piece of propaganda to help those making the case for the ITC as the proposal gets batted around Congress, the DOE’s report will certainly be a timely fillip in the quest for the much bigger prize.

26 January 2022
Join this free webinar for our analysis of the growth of N-Type technology including; new capacity expansions and production output. We'll also be looking at the global manufacturing footprint with forecasts on how much product will be made outside of China this year and which companies are driving technology change across the crystalline silicon value chain.
23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.
8 March 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 March 2022
When it comes to storage, the US market exceeded a gigawatt of advanced energy storage installations (weighted towards lithium ion) at 1.46 GW, more than the previous six years in total! An exponential growth rate could see the market hit 7.5 GW p.a. by 2025. The summit will provide a wealth of content around this vital piece in the US power puzzle, with sessions dedicated to explore how companies are making money from batteries, the latest chemistries and their applications as they apply to different use-cases. We ask how investors can match ESG criteria to batteries and we will bring case studies of successful deployment and project execution onto the stage to examine how you can ensure your own projects are successful.
29 March 2022
Now in its 10th sell-out year, Large Scale Solar returns to Lisbon in 2022. We are excited to gather together face-to-face with the European solar industry as we provide unique and exclusive access to a powerful selection of the market's key stakeholders. Join this elite summit to find out how the market is maturing, which new markets are becoming more exciting, how technology is evolving and who's driving the market forward into the 2020s. Always senior, packed with developers, EPCs, utilities and investors this is the event for companies serious about European solar PV.

Read Next

January 24, 2022
Italy’s government will limit the windfall profits of some feed-in tariff-backed solar PV projects that have been able to benefit from rising energy prices.
January 24, 2022
More than 260 companies in the US clean energy sector are demanding urgent action on the US$1.75 trillion Build Back Better (BBB) Act, claiming that US$2 billion is being lost in economic activity every month the long-awaited bill is delayed.
January 24, 2022
Major polysilicon and wafer producer GCL-Poly Energy Holdings confirmed the completion of its granular silicon facility and, in a major reversal of last year’s fortunes, is expecting RMB5.5 billion (US$850 million) in net profit for 2021, according to a company statement.
January 24, 2022
Polysilicon producer Daqo New Energy is expecting a five-fold increase in net profit from its Xinjiang subsidiary as it continues to progress expansion plans.
January 24, 2022
Renewables developer and operator Leeward Renewable Energy has signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) with telecom company Verizon for a portfolio of four under-development solar and wind plants in the US with a combined capacity of 640MW.
January 24, 2022
The average cost of forecasting errors in the US is lower than previously thought at less than US$1/MWh, according to a study by Berkeley Lab that employed a new, publicly available method to examine the practice.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
January 26, 2022
Free Webinar
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal