DOE Funding for Two Solar Projects Totals Nearly 2 Billion

July 06, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced the offer of a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee of $400 million to Abound Solar Manufacturing, LLC to manufacture state-of-the-art thin-film solar panels. This will be the first time this new manufacturing technology for Cadmium-Telluride panels is deployed commercially anywhere in the world. Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, this project includes two facilities, one in Longmont, Colorado and the other in Tipton, Indiana. The Indiana facility will occupy a new factory originally constructed for a Chrysler auto parts supplier that was never able to move in due to the economic downturn. The company anticipates that the project will create approximately 2,000 jobs during construction and 1,500 permanent jobs.

The company will use proprietary manufacturing technology developed jointly by Colorado State University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Science Foundation. They will produce photovoltaic panels using an innovative process in which thin films of Cadmium-Telluride are deposited onto the glass panels. The technology offers numerous improvements over existing manufacturing methods and reduces overall product costs. The processes are also expected to create significant enhancements in film quality, device efficiency and stability, and product yield.

When fully operational, the company will produce millions of solar panels annually. The panels can be produced at a lower cost than crystalline silicon modules. Upon completion, the project will be able to manufacture enough panels each year to support up to 840 megawatts (MW) of new solar power annually. The project is expected to reach full capacity by 2013.

The DOE also announced the offer of a conditional commitment to Abengoa Solar Inc. for a $1.45 billion loan guarantee to finance the construction and start-up of a concentrating solar power generating facility. The Solana, Arizona plant will add 250MW of capacity to the electrical grid using parabolic trough solar collectors and an innovative six-hour thermal energy storage system – said to be the first of its kind in the country.

Once operational, the Solana project will supply clean electric power to approximately 70,000 homes, reducing overall CO2 emissions by 475,000 tons. Electricity from the project will be sold through a long-term power purchase agreement with Arizona Public Service Company. Abengoa Solar estimates that the Solana project will employ approximately 1,600 workers during the construction phase of the project and create over 80 skilled permanent jobs for the plant’s operation.

Over 70% of the components and products used for Solana will be made in the United States. Two assembly factories will be constructed on the Solana site, and as a result of Solana’s large need for mirrors (over 900,000), a new mirror manufacturing facility will be sited just outside of the Phoenix area, contributing additional direct investment and adding more jobs to Arizona’s economy.

Solana will employ solar trough technology using parabolic shaped glass mirrors that direct sunlight onto receiver tubes that heat the fluid inside to over 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat is then used to turn steam turbines. The project also includes a thermal energy storage system that will allow Solana to produce electricity after the sun has set.