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In September 2011, the Department of Energy issued a $1.2 billion loan guarantee to support the construction of California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR), a 250 MWac photovoltaic (PV) solar generating facility in rural San Luis Obispo County, California. The project reached commercial operation in October 2013.
When he announced the creation of the White House Rural Council, President Obama said, “Strong rural communities are key to a stronger America.” Strengthening America’s energy generation and transmission will play an important role in this opportunity for rural communities.
Today, I moderated a panel at the White House Rural Opportunity Investment Conference about the challenges and opportunities for energy generation and transmission in rural America. We had a robust discussion with our distinguished panel that included Jim Barry, Managing Director at BlackRock, Leslie Biddle, Partner at Serengeti Asset Management, Timothy S. Howell, Managing Director at GE Energy Financial Services, and Richard L. Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York State and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
While rural America certainly faces some challenges, the panel agreed that an abundance of energy investment opportunities exist. The existing portfolio of the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) highlights some of those opportunities.
In the desert Southwest, LPO helped to finance ten of the world’s largest and most innovative photovoltaic solar and concentrating solar power projects, which helped to provide these growing communities with both clean energy and good jobs.
In the Midwest, LPO also helped to finance one of the first cellulosic biofuel facilities in the United States in Hugoton, Kansas.
All of America can benefit from rural investments. The One Nevada Transmission Line, which received a $343 million loan guarantee, is viewed as part of the transmission backbone that will bring wind and solar resources from rural areas of Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada to California and urban areas with a high concentration of energy consumption.
To help encourage future opportunities for investment in energy generation and infrastructure, LPO is making available $8 billion in loan guarantees for advanced fossil energy projects and up to $4 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy and efficient energy projects. Through these solicitations, we hope to work in public-private partnership with commercial lenders to co-lend on projects and maximize the total project investment.
If we want to meet President Obama’s goal of strengthening rural communities, the project investments that LPO supports are just the kind of investment that is needed.