April 19, 2011 - 400 MW solar project proposed in California

Monday, April 18, 2011

Last week I noted Google's investment in the 392 megawatt Ivanpah solar project in California.  That project, which is currently under construction in the Mojave Desert, is on track to be the world's largest solar thermal project.  Ivanpah uses heliostat mirrors to focus sunlight on centrally located solar power towers.  The towers use the solar energy to generate steam.  The steam runs through steam turbines and a generator to produce electricity.
"Turn your grocery bags into green energy" - seen at a Vermont market
Now an even larger solar project has been proposed for California -- this time solar photovoltaic.   Developer Pegasus Energy has proposed a 400 MW solar PV power plant on about 2,000 acres in Alameda County California.  The Mountain House Solar Farm would sell power to local utility PG&E, and might break ground in early 2013.

As we often see, the twin challenges of financing and regulatory uncertainty team up to add a wrinkle to these plans.  The developer has built a financing model based on using an incentive authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: a cash grant in lieu of the federal 30% business energy investment tax credit (ITC).  That incentive program, known as the 1603 grant program, is currently slated to end this year.  The developer is reportedly hopeful that grant funds will be extended until January 1, 2013, and would be available to help finance the project.  This may be a realistic hope, as the 1603 program has already been extended once (by Section 707 of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010), so renewal is possible.  On the other hand, recent struggles over the federal budget do call into question the continued survival of any given clean energy incentive programs.  Will Congress renew the 1603 energy grant program?

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