Obama Administration Supporting Major Solar Energy Project in California

By Susan Jones | April 19, 2011 | 11:20 AM EDT

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Energy Department is offering $2.1-billion conditional loan guarantee to support another major solar power project in California.

A loan guarantee means the federal government will cover the borrower's debt if the borrower defaults. Such loan guarantees allow the government to share the financial risks of major 'green energy' projects that lack private investment and are not yet supported by the commercial marketplace.

The $2.1 billion conditional loan guarantee offered to the Blythe Solar Power Project is the largest amount ever offered to a solar project through the Energy Department's loan office, Secretary Steven Chu said.

The concentrating solar thermal power plant includes two units comprising a combined 484-megawatt generating capacity, an eight-mile transmission line and associated infrastructure. The two units are part of a larger project, sponsored by Solar Trust of America, which -- when completed -- will generate 1,000 megawatts of solar power, enough to power 95,000 homes a year.

The project will be built adjacent to the City of Blythe in Riverside County, and it is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs. According to the Energy Department, it also will avoid an estimated 710,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, which is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 123,000 vehicles.

"Loan guarantees play an important role in facilitating the development and deployment of innovative technologies at massive scope and scale," Chu said. "Continued investments like this project make solar power more efficient and cost competitive while creating thousands of jobs and strengthening the economy."

"Investments like this one are critical to reducing America's dangerous dependence on foreign oil, protecting our children from pollution and creating clean energy jobs here in California," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said.

The Department of Energy has issued loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling $21 billion to support 22 clean energy projects across 14 states. DOE says it is supporting "robust projects" across a variety of energy sectors, including wind, geothermal, solar, biofuels and nuclear. 

Including Monday's announcement, DOE has now committed financing for four of the world's largest solar projects, two geothermal projects, the world's largest wind farm and the nation's first new nuclear power plant in three decades. 

"Today, we are in a global race to develop and deploy clean energy technologies," Chu said. "We can either sit on the sidelines and watch the competition pass us by or we can get in the race and play to win."

President Obama has proposed doubling the amount of electricity generated from clean energy sources by 2035. Chu said investments in projects such as the one in Blythe will help meet this goal while creating jobs and positioning the U.S. to lead in the solar industry.