|U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, right, and Georges Antoun, COO of First Solar, |
tour the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm near Desert Center on Monday. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)
The project is not bad . . . only dumb
- Solar is exactly the way to go. But this project is a joke. The world's largest solar plant powers as "massive" 160,000 homes in a state with nearly 40,000,000 people. Simply, there is no way to build enough of these plants to power the People's Republic. The way to go is to put solar panels on each individual home.
(The Desert Sun) - Riverside County is now home to the world's largest solar power plant.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined state officials near Desert Center on Monday to commission the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar project, which generates enough electricity to power 160,000 average California homes. Desert Sunlight received a federal loan of nearly $1.5 billion, and Jewell called the project's completion an example of the loan guarantee program's tremendous importance.
"When you are stepping out with new technology, when you are trying something that has been untested before, a loan guarantee program from an organization like the Department of Energy is what provides you, as a lender, that certainty that you can step up and support the project," Jewell told The Desert Sun.
Conservative lawmakers have derided the loan guarantee program, arguing that it's wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Critics have pointed to the program's $535 million loan guarantee for Solyndra, a Fremont-based solar panel manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
But the Department of Energy reported last year that it expects to make a profit of $5 billion to $6 billion from the program. The department funded five traditional, large-scale solar farms, and Desert Sunlight marks the last of those projects to go online.
"They're all rock-solid, money is good, living up to every kind of condition we put in the loan documents in terms of performance, in terms of commercial operation," Peter Davidson, executive director of the Department of Energy's loan programs office, said in an interview last week.
The loan guarantee program did more than fund five solar photovoltaic projects, Davidson added: It helped launch the large-scale solar industry. In 2009, there were no traditional solar farms in the United States larger than 100 megawatts. Now, 17 such projects have been financed, according to a Department of Energy report released Monday.
Solar panels "existed before as a technology, but that technology hadn't been deployed at a large scale," Davidson said. "Once we've done that, the government steps aside to let the private markets take over."
Desert Sunlight employed an average of 440 people during more than three years of construction, and it now has about 15 full-time employees. Money provided by the project's owners — as part of an agreement negotiated with Riverside County — is also being used to fund $400,000 in improvements to the community center in nearby Desert Center.
"The debate's over — we're going to be moving to more renewable energy," Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit said. "We are ideally situated, here in eastern Riverside County, to host this kind of development in the future."