* DOE loan guarantee program preserved in budget
* DOE gives $1.187 bln conditional commitment to SunPower
* SunPower plant in California will power 100,000 homes
(Adds preservation of loan guarantee program, background,
BrightSource plant, industry trade group quote, byline)
By Nichola Groom
LOS ANGELES, April 12 A federal program to
support the development of clean energy technologies escaped
the budget ax this week and the Energy Department wasted no
time announcing major commitments to fund two of the world's
largest solar projects.
SunPower Corp SPWRA.O received a conditional commitment
on Tuesday for a $1.187 billion loan guarantee from the U.S.
Department of Energy to finance a 250-megawatt photovoltaic
power plant in central California that will generate enough
electricity to power 100,000 homes.
That announcement came a day after the government finalized
a $1.6 billion loan guarantee for privately held BrightSource
Energy Inc's 392 MW Ivanpah solar thermal project.
In February, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of
Representatives passed a bill that would have cut most of the
funding for the DOE's loan guarantee program for innovative
The alternative energy industry, in response, argued that
the program would create tens of thousands of jobs and generate
billions of dollars in investment. The program, which applies
to projects that begin construction by September of this year,
was preserved in the final budget agreement for this year.
The head of the solar power industry's trade group said
none of the very large solar power projects under development
would have been built without the loan guarantee program.
"The capital markets are still not there to support
renewable energy development at the scale we need," Solar
Energy Industries Association Chief Executive Rhone Resch said
in an interview. "None of the projects that are under
construction right now would have been able to go forward
without this program."
The DOE said on Tuesday it has issued loan guarantees or
offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees of over $19
billion for 21 clean energy projects.
Under loan guarantees, the federal government agrees to pay
portions of private loans if the companies default.
The DOE program has provided funding for projects whose
innovative technologies have difficulty securing financing from
traditional lending sources hard hit by the financial crisis
and therefore less willing to take on the risk of pouring money
into unproven technologies.
SunPower will start construction of its California Valley
Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County in the second half of
this year. NRG Energy Inc (NRG.N) has agreed to buy the
NRG, which is also an investor in the BrightSource Ivanpah
project, received a conditional commitment for a $967 million
DOE loan guarantee for its 290 MW Agua Caliente photovoltaic
solar power project in Arizona. That plant is being built by
First Solar Inc. (FSLR.O)
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Bernard Orr and Andre