The Obama administration is at again. Not content with the scandal over the failure of Solyndra, on September 28 the Department of Energy (DOE), guaranteed loans to the Tonopah Solar Energy project ($737 million), and the Mesquite Solar 1 project ($337 million). Let’s examine these two recipients of DOE loan guarantees.
Tonopah Solar Energy
From Tonopah’s web site, we learn several things:
- It is a wholly owned subsidiary of SolarReserve
- It proposes (probably with the $737 million loan guarantee from DOE, but it doesn’t say) to build, own, and operate the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project.
- It will create (it claims) 400-600 construction jobs, and 45 permanent jobs.
- It will use liquid salt to capture solar energy to drive electricity-producing turbines.
- It will use technology from SolarReserve, made primarily in the US.
Tonopah Solar Energy proposes to build and operate the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. Crescent Dunes will have the tallest molten salt tower in the world.
From the SolarReserve web site, technology section, we learn:
- SolarReserve says it will build power plants that are solar power towers, which focuses the sun’s energy with 17,500 mirrors (called heliostats) in a two square mile field.
- The sun’s energy melts salt, an older technology (see Solar Project), then is stored and/or used to generate electricity.
- SolarReserve says it can produce electricity at lower prices using this technology.
- SolarReserve proposes to use United Technologies Corporation proven technology.
And now we learn that Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) brother-in-law, Ronald Pelosi, is an executive at Pacific Corporate Group, a partner of SolarReserve. Coincidence? It’s worth noting that, when she was speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi often spoke of the culture of corruption in Washington DC.
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project will be located 14 miles northwest of Tonopah, Nevada, on land leased from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The electricity produced, SolarReserve claims, will be capable of powering more than 43,000 homes with this technology (PDF).
Mesquite Solar 1
A little research tells us that the Mesquite Solar 1 project, to be located near Phoenix, AZ, is owned by Sempra Energy. We also learn that Suntech will provide 800.000 photo-voltaic (PV) panels to the project, and that Zachary Holdings, Inc. has been chosen for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) for the site. The Mesquite Solar 1 project will be one of the first PV power plants to use US-manufactured, transformerless, liquid cooled inverter technology.
Andrew Beebe, chief commercial officer of Suntech, said that with Sempra, Zachry and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) involved, Mesquite Solar 1 will be built. Sempra already has a 20 year power purchase agreement with PG&E. Scheduled for completion in 2013, Mesquite Solar 1 will be one of the largest PV solar installations in North America, projected to create no permanent jobs. The project is supposed to provide 300 construction jobs.
The questions I must ask are: If Sempra has all of the above technology, facilities, partners, and money in place, why does it need a DOE loan guarantee? And when the construction jobs are gone, what new green jobs will be created?
Spain — Been There, Done That
Spain’s solar project, a 2009 study at King Juan Carlos University found, spent more than half a million euros for each green job created since 2000. Further, the solar PV industry alone received subsidies of €2.6 billion in 2010. And, we learn that Spain is using the same technology proposed for both the Tonopah and Mesquite projects. But Spain ran out of money and ended solar power subsidies.
DOE Loan Guarantees
DOE has issued loans, loan guarantees, or conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion to support more than 40 clean energy projects, including several of the world’s largest solar generation facilities, three geothermal projects, the world’s largest wind farm, and the nation’s first new nuclear power plant in three decades. So? Will the Tonopah Solar Project and the Mesquite Solar 1 project be profitable, or will they be another Solyndra, another hole into which taxpayer money will be poured with little or nothing to show? Spain could not make it work without massive subsidies that it had to end. Why does Obama think it will work here?