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Solar companies get $1.85 billion in federal loan guarantees, Obama says

July 3, 2010 | 11:35 am

Two solar companies are starting the Independence Day weekend in a good mood after President Obama announced nearly $2 billion in conditional commitments in his weekly video address.

Obama said the move was an attempt at “accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and doubling our use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power – steps that have the potential to create whole new industries and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America.” See the full remarks here.

The idea is to encourage other investors to cough up capital for the projects. Obama’s announcement comes the day after a new jobs report from the Labor Department suggested that the job market remains sluggish.

Colorado company Abound Solar Inc. got an offer for a $400-million federal loan guarantee to manufacture thin-film photovoltaic solar panels at two new plants.

The effort is suppoed to create more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs at its Longmont, Colo. facility and Tipton, Ind., factory, which is moving into an empty Chrysler plant.

Using its cadmium telluride semiconductor technology, Abound is set to produce millions of panels annually.

Spanish company Abengoa Solar Inc. received an offer for a $1.45-billion federal loan guarantee to help construct its net 250-megawatt Solana project. The installation, which the company claims will be the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, will be 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. Last month, the company announced another large plant in Abu Dhabi.

In a power purchase agreement with the APS utility, the facility will be able to deliver power to customers over a 30-year period even after dark and during cloudy periods with six hours of molten salt thermal energy storage capability. With enough electricity to serve 70,000 households, the plant will prevent 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide being emitted each year compared to a power plant that burns natural gas.

And on a patriotic note, the company estimates that construction will create up to 1,700 new jobs and operation will spawn 85 permanent jobs. Three-fourths of the building equipment and supplies, such as steam generators, heat exchangers, glass and steel, will be manufactured domestically.

Chief executive Santiago Seage said the installation is already in a “very advanced stage of development and permitting,” having already been authorized by most relevant local, county and state authorities.

The company is also working on a similar plant in the Mojave Desert.

-- Tiffany Hsu

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