U.S. offers loan aid for world's biggest solar plant

The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $2.1 billion in conditional loan guarantees to support what will be the world's biggest solar power plant, the government's largest commitment to date for to solar energy. The aid will support construction of the first two units of Solar Trust of America LLC's 1,000 megawatt solar thermal Blythe Solar Power Project, the DOE said on Monday. Solar Trust of America is a joint venture between German companies Solar Millennium AG and Ferrostaal AG. "For the first time in mankind's history, a solar power facility will be built at a scale and output capacity equal to the very largest coal-fired and nuclear power plants operating in the world today," Solar Trust of America Chief Executive Uwe Schmidt said on a conference call with reporters. The first two units of the project near Blythe, California are capable of producing 484 MW of electricity using solar thermal trough technology. The project will create over 1,000 construction jobs, 80 operations jobs, and will avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those generated by about 123,000 vehicles. Solar Millennium's technology makes electricity by using trough-shaped mirrors to heat a fluid that generates steam that turns a turbine. The Blythe project's total pricetag is estimated at north of $6 billion, with the first phase costing about $2.8 billion. The announcement came a week after the federal program to support clean energy technologies escaped the axe in the final U.S. budget agreement for the current fiscal year.

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