Obama announces US$2bn investment in solar energy firms


5 Jul 2010

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US President Barack Obama is to give US$2bn in loan guarantee to two solar companies, an investment expected to create more than 5,000 US jobs.

Abengoa Solar will receive $1.45bn to support the construction and start up of Solana, a 250-net megawatt (MW) concentrating solar power (CSP) plant that will be located 113km southwest of Phoenix, near Gila Bend, Arizona.

When completed, Solana will be one of the largest solar plants in the world, creating about 1,600 construction jobs, with more than 70pc of the construction components and products manufactured in the US.

The plant should be operational by mid-2013 and will provide enough clean energy to power 70,000 homes, Obama said.

Abengoa estimates the project will avoid emitting more than 475,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by more than 90,000 cars annually.

“After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs here in America”, added Obama.

Solana will include six hours of molten salt thermal energy storage capability, facilitating energy to be dispatched as needed during cloudy periods and after sunset.

Abengoa Solar has signed a power purchase agreement with APS, Arizona’s largest electric utility, to sell the energy produced by Solana for 30 years.

Solar photovoltaics

Meanwhile, Colorado-based solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar has also received a US federal loan guarantee to build two new plants, one in Colorado and one in Indiana.

Abound Solar manufactures next-generation, thin-film photovoltaic modules. Founded in 2007, its technology grew from research carried out at Colorado State University in the late Eighties.

Abound Solar’s photovoltaic panels are constructed using proprietary technology pioneered by Colorado State University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Science Foundation.

It is estimated that the company’s two projects will create more than 2,000 construction jobs and more than 1,500 permanent manufacturing and technical jobs.

The two Abound plants are due to reach full manufacturing capacity by 2013, with the annual production of panels able to support the production of 840 megawatts of new solar power each year – enough to power more than 200,000 homes.

The US and clean tech

“These are just two of the many clean-energy investments in the Recovery Act.  Already, I’ve seen the payoff from these investments. I’ve seen once-shuttered factories humming with new workers who are building solar panels and wind turbines; rolling up their sleeves to help America win the race for the clean-energy economy,” Obama said.

The US Department of Energy has awarded the loans to Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar under the US Recovery Act. The Recovery Act is investing more than US$90bn in clean energy, and it is estimated that this investment could produce as much as US$150bn in clean-energy projects.

By Jennifer Yau and Carmel Doyle