First Solar Wins $646 Million From Feds, then Sells AVSR1

  • Grading and trenching at Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) is creating a dust blight, residents say.

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    Grading and trenching at Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1) is creating a dust blight, residents say.

  • Starting to build before the end of September won $646 million in federally backed loans, but created a dust bowl on and nearHighway 138, according to residents.

    Image 2 of 2
    Starting to build before the end of September won $646 million in federally backed loans, but created a dust bowl on and nearHighway 138, according to residents.

By Patric Hedlund

Whether you have a problem with asthma or just a fondness for seeing in front of you while driving, residents of the Neenach-Fairmont area of the West Antelope Valley warn that you may want to use caution about traveling Highway 138 near 170th Street while construction is underway at Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1).

David Kerr of Fairmont Town Council and Richard Skaggs of Oso Town Council complained last week that billowing dust clouds create a hazard for health and traffic safety near the site being prepared for the 230 megawatt (MW) AVSR1 solar utility.

But rushing into construction here before September 30 helped win First Solar, Inc. $646 million in federal loan guarantees. The company lost $1.5 billion in such guarantees for an Arizona project because they could not meet the same “start date” deadline there.

On September 30 First Solar spokesperson Alex Martin wrote: “…First Solar closed financing of the 230 MW…project yesterday, which includes the sale of the project to Exelon Corporation.

“First Solar will continue to construct the project using its advanced thin-film photovoltaic modules and will operate and maintain the project.”

“In addition,” Martin wrote in the same message, “today the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office announced that it has finalized a loan guarantee of up to $646 million to support the project financing for AV Solar Ranch One. Advances under the loan are contingent on the satisfaction of various conditions. No regulatory approvals are needed for Exelon’s acquisition of Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One from First Solar.”

Martin said the project, “will deliver economic benefits to the local community and the state of California, including state and local tax revenues, up to 400 jobs during construction and up to 15 ongoing operations and maintenance positions….” Only about 30 local hires have been reported so far by the company.

On September 29 Martin told The Mountain Enterprise that “after investigation, First Solar has determined that high winds may have contributed to the unusual dust disturbance over the weekend when no construction was taking place,” but went on to say that the company will comply with agreements not to use unpaved 175th Street West to access their site, but will use 170th Street West after reinforcing the road where it crosses the California Aqueduct.

This is part of the October 07, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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