U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the Department finalized a $737 million loan guarantee to Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC to develop the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. The solar project, sponsored by SolarReserve, LLC, is a 110 megawatt concentrating solar power tower generating facility with molten salt as the primary heat transfer and storage medium. It will be the first of its kind in the United States and the tallest molten salt tower in the world. Located 14 miles northwest of Tonopah, Nevada on land leased from the Bureau of Land Management, the company anticipates the facility will fund 600 construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs. The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy facility is expected to avoid nearly 290,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and produce enough electricity to power over 43,000 homes.
“If we want to be a player in the global clean energy race, we must continue to invest in innovative technologies that enable commercial-scale deployment of clean, renewable power like solar,” said Secretary Chu. “Solar generation facilities, like the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, help supply energy to local utilities and create hundreds of good, American clean energy jobs.”
The project includes 17,500 heliostats (mirror assemblies) that collect and focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through an approximately 640-foot tall solar power tower. The high temperature molten salt circulates from the tower to a storage tank, where it is then used to produce steam and generate electricity. Excess thermal energy is stored in the molten salt and can be called upon at any time to create additional steady, clean, renewable power for up to ten hours, even in the evening hours and when direct sunlight isn’t available. This increases grid stability and reduces the need for carbon pollution emitting generators, which currently supplement intermittent renewable generation technologies during periods of no or low solar resource. The molten salt technology was demonstrated at the Solar Two facility in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Power from the project will be sold to Nevada Power Company, a utility subsidiary of NV Energy, Inc.
The Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) administers three separate programs: the Title XVII Section 1703 and Section 1705 loan guarantee programs, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. The Title XVII loan guarantee programs support the deployment of commercial technologies along with innovative technologies that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, while the ATVM loan program supports the development of advanced vehicle technologies. To date, the Department has issued loans, loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion to support more than 40 clean energy projects across the United States, 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.