Google pursuing grant for ailing Ivanpah solar plant

A renewable energy company pushed by President Barack Obama including Google as an investor has urged for a $539 million federal grant to help pay off part of a $1.6 billion federal loan, used to build a solar plant in the Mojave desert, reports The Daily Caller.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, owned by Google, NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy, uses nearly 175,000 heliostats for this project in California.

It’s going to put about 1,000 people to work building a state-of-the-art facility. And when it’s complete, it will turn sunlight into the energy that will power up to 140,000 homes, pointed out, Obama about Ivanpah in a weekly address in Oct. 2010.

Since going operational in February, Ivanpah could not meet its own expectations, generating only 254,000 megawatt-hours of power.

However, NRG Energy which holds the largest stake in Ivanpah has applied for federal grants to keep the project running.

The $1.6 billion federal loan came through the Department of Energy’s 1705 loan guarantee program and helped finance the plant’s construction, which began in 2010.

Google also invested $168 million in the project.

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The 1705 program that funded Solyndra, a California solar company went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving $536 million in federal loan guarantees.

Two weeks after Ivanpah became operational; NRG Energy received an extension from the Department of Energy to pay off the $132 million owed on the first installment of its massive loan. The company must now pay that amount by Feb. 27, 2015.

A $159 million loan payment due on June 27 was extended until Dec. 27.

In September, a third loan instalment of $117 million due on Oct. 27 remained on schedule. But the repayment date for that loan has been extended to Apr. 27, 2015.

To help pay off these instalments, NRG applied for a $539 million grant through the Treasury Department’s 1603 program that provides awards equivalent to 30 percent of the project’s total eligible cost basis in most cases.

Rather than put the grant to use to develop the plant, NRG Energy plans to use those proceeds to pay off loans it owes the Department of Energy.

The Ivanpah project is one of many that have come under scrutiny after the Solyndra disaster, which the White House pushed despite concerns over the project’s risk.

Sabeena Wahid

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