Mesquite Solar I project, Calisolar land DOE conditional loan guarantees

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US Energy Secretary Steven Chu revealed that the US Department of Energy (DOE) has extended two additional loan guarantees to Mesquite Solar and Calisolar, respectively. The announcement comes just two days after the DOE unveiled its conditional loan guarantee offers to Abengoa’s Mojave Solar Project and the Genesis Solar Project. The four projects bring the DOE’s loan guarantee three-day grand total to over US$2.5 billion.

A US$359.1 million loan guarantee was extended to Mesquite Solar for its 150MW PV solar generating project in Maricopa County, Arizona along with a US$275 million loan guarantee to Calisolar for the commercialization of its solar silicon manufacturing process. The Mesquite Solar I project, sponsored by Sempra Generation, will utilize Suntech panels and Advanced Energy inverters to generate almost 350,000MWh of electricity during its first full year of operation.

The project is considered one of the first large-scale utility PV plants in the US that will employ US-manufactured transformerless and liquid cooled inverter technology. The technology is said to increase energy output while decreasing operating costs. Power from Mesquite Solar I will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

The US$275 million loan commitment to Calisolar will go to help the company with its production of silicon for solar cells and cost half of the conventional polysilicon purification process. The company’s manufacturing plant is anticipated to produce, at full capacity, 16,000MT of solar silicon per annum, which amounts to over 2GW of solar power generation every year.

Construction has been divided into three phases of 5,333MT capacity each with all three phases located at the former General Motors stamping plant in Ontario, Ohio. The project entails Calisolar producing solar silicon from lower-cost metallurgical grade silicon feedstock, which will then be improved to upgraded metallurgical silicon (UMG) using the company’s unique silicon purification process. The proprietary process is stated to reduce energy consumption for the production of solar silicon while cutting capital equipment and construction costs by 1/6th that of customary polysilicon plants.

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