In a struggling economy staring down the barrel of a double-dip recession, the USA continues to bank on the construction of large-scale solar energy facilities to fuel job growth and forge a path to energy independence.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says it will provide a conditional $4.5 billion in loans to help build three alternating current Cadmium Telluride (Cd-Te) thin film photovoltaic (PV) solar generation plants in California. First Solar Inc. is the primary sponsor of all three projects, and will build a Cd-Te thin film manufacturing plant in Arizona which will supply solar cells to the facilities.
Firs Solar expects to create over 1400 jobs in California over the construction period of the three solar plants.
$680 million in DOE loans will go to the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1, a 230 megawatt (MW) plant that will feed power to over 54,000 households and avoid 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The plant features innovative utility-scale voltage inverters which ensure a more stable and continuous supply of electricity.
The 550MW Desert Sunlight project will be completed in two phases and will receive $1.88 billion in conditional loans. When completed, Desert Sunlight’s 8.8 million Cd-Te thin film solar PV panels will generate enough clean energy to power 110,000 homes and avoid 735,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Another 550MW facility, the Topaz Solar project, will also install over 8.5 million thin film solar panels and receive $1.93 billion in loans.
“These projects will bring immediate jobs to California in addition to hundreds more across the supply chain,” said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Together the projects will power hundreds of thousands of homes with clean, renewable power and increase our global competitiveness in the clean energy economy.”
Thin film solar panel technology is becoming an attractive option for large-scale solar generation – although it less efficient than solar thermal or polysilicon PV solar panels, it is cheaper to manufacture and install, bringing down the overall cost of establishing a large-scale solar generation system. However, controversy remains over the use of cadmium in solar panels.