Top 10 Solar 1603 Treasury Grant Awards

FPL tops the list of Solar Treasury Grant program (TGP) Awards since inception.
Solar Leasing and PPA programs surprise in the Top 10.

desoto While blogging Extend the Treasury Grant Program for Solar and Renewables through 2016, I stumbled on the list of 1603 Treasury Grant program (TGP) awards totaling $5.53 billion for 1465 projects compiled by the US Department of the Treasury (downloaded on December 3, 2010). Wind dominates the top 70 TGP awards with amounts ranging from $218M (million) to $21.2M. Utility Solar Photovoltaic (PV) projects and a Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) project rank 32nd and 71st on the list respectively.

In all cases, the Treasury Grant award is assumed to be 30% of total project installation costs although it is possible additional costs were incurred.

1. Florida Power & Light Company $62,371,777.00 6/2/10 (32)
Florida Power & Light (FPL), a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc. (
NYSE:NEE), was awarded two grants totaling almost $62.4M, $43.9M for the DeSoto solar plant in January 2010 and $18.4M for the Space Coast solar plant in June 2010. SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWRA) touts completing the DeSoto PV system $22 Million under budget. The 25 MWac (MegaWatt alternating current) DeSoto Solar Energy Center has an extrapolated installed project cost of $146.3M or $5.85 per AC Watt. By similar calculations, the 10 MWac Space Coast Solar Center has an installed project cost of $61.3M or $6.13 per AC Watt.

2. eSolar, Inc. $19,543,649.00 2/5/10 (71)
eSolar was awarded a $19.5M grant in February 2010 for the 5 MW Sierra SunTower. The two Concentrating Solar Power towers have an extrapolated installed project cost of $65.1M or $13.03 per Watt! Responding to my questions about the high project installation cost, eSolar said:

Sierra was intended to prove not only that eSolar’s technology works at a commercial scale, but also to gain insight into plant construction, operations and maintenance. As the first plant of its kind, Sierra provides invaluable learning experience that will be applied to drive down costs and improve operations at larger facilities. However, since it was the first plant of its kind, eSolar was not able to achieve the same economies of scale that will be achieved with future facilities. Additionally, certain cost sacrifices were made to hit a tight construction deadline.

3. NRG Solar Blythe LLC $18,093,939.00 6/15/10 (73)
NRG Solar LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NRG), was awarded an $18.1M grant for the 21 MWac Blythe Solar Plant acquired from First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) in 2009. The Blythe Solar Plant has an extrapolated installed project cost of $60.3M or $2.87 per Watt. I suspect this is the lowest installed cost on a capacity basis for any US solar PV installation. That is unless Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), applies for a Treasury Grant for the just completed 48 MWac Copper Mountain Solar facility in Boulder City, Nevada USA.

4. USB SolarCity Master tenant 2010, LLC $14,429,866.00 11/8/10 (75)
A special purpose entity formed by
SolarCity aggregating multiple California Residential and Non-Residential solar PV installations was awarded a $14.4M grant in November 2010. Driven by SolarLease and Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) financing, the Treasury Grant enabled $48.1M of solar PV installations. SolarCity did not provide any details on the MegaWatts or number of installations completed with help from the award. Also, the USB SolarCity Master Tenant 2010, LLC, was awarded a $5.30M grant for solar PV installations in Arizona.

5. Areva Solar, Inc. $13,931,962.00 2/26/10 (76)
AREVA Solar was awarded a $13.9M grant in February 2010 for the
5 MW Kimberlina Solar Thermal Energy Plant in Bakersfield, California USA, acquired along with Ausra. The Kimberlina CSP plant has an extrapolated installed project cost of $46.4M or a piggish $9.29 per Watt. Don’t let the AREVA Next Energy Blog or social media strategy fool you. AREVA did not even acknowledge my inquiries about the grant or the Kimberlina project.

6. National Bank of Arizona $8,735,530.00 11/2/10 (84)
The National Bank of Arizona, a subsidiary of Zions Bancorporation (
NASDAQ:ZION), was awarded an $8.74M grant in November 2010 extrapolating to $29.1M of installed solar PV projects in Arizona. The National Bank of Arizona has been slow to respond, so it is unclear if the grant is only related to the Solar Phoenix and Soaring Heights Communities programs or also includes National Bank of Arizona office solar installations.

7. CT Solar Leasing, LLC $8,135,406.00 11/8/10 (87)
CT Solar Leasing, LLC, “a specialty leasing company”, was awarded an $8.14M grant in November 2010 enabling $27.1M of solar PV installations in Connecticut through the CT Solar Lease Program. “The CT Solar Lease Program is offered by CT Solar Leasing, LLC in cooperation with the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, AFC First Financial Corporation, and Gemstone Lease Management, LLC. CT Solar Leasing, LLC is a non-bank subsidiary of US Bancorp (NYSE: USB).

8. Maricopa Solar, LLC $7,044,683.00 6/2/10 (90)
Maricopa Solar was awarded a $7.04M grant in June 2010 for the
1.5 MW Maricopa Solar Project in Peoria, Arizona USA. The CSP project was developed by Tessera Solar using sister company Stirling Energy Systems (SES) SunCatcher solar dish systems at an extrapolated installed cost of $23.5M or an astronomical $15.65 per Watt. “Are Stirling Energy, Tessera Solar in Trouble?” by Michael Kanellos at Greentech Media raises questions about the viability of both NTR plc portfolio companies. And “Tessera Solar LLC — Constrained by Noisy Technology?” at the Mojave Desert Blog demonstrates SunCatchers are louder than buzzsaws.

9. SunRun Solar Tenant I, LLC $6,726,215.00 10/4/10 (92)
A special purpose entity formed this time by
SunRun aggregating multiple California Residential solar PV installations was awarded a $6.73M grant in October 2010. The Treasury Grant enabled around $22.4M of solar PV installations leveraging SunRun Solar Plans. SunRun also declined to provide any color on the MegaWatts or number of installations completed via the award.

10. Master Tenant 2008-C, LLC $5,867,136.00 7/23/10 (96)
A special purpose entity with a generic name, the Master Tenant 2008-C, LLC, was awarded a $5.87M grant and appears to have enabled $19.6M of solar PV installations in California. The Master Tenant 2008-C, LLC, may relate to a
Solar Power, Inc. disclosure of a loan agreement with Umpqua Bank, but I have not been able to confirm this.

I am sure there are many more special purpose entities to discover for solar lease and PPA specialists such as SolarCity, SunRun, Sungevity, and their peers or competitors. Meanwhile, all of the CSP projects were expensive, small scale prototypes and provide insight into why these projects are considered unbankable without a loan guarantee.

Please don’t forget to vote in the new sidebar PV POLL: What will the average solar polysilicon spot price be in 2011?

(Full disclosure: I own some shares of FSLR stock.)

7 comments

  1. Whilst I am not associated with Areva, I was the CEO of Ausra. In terms of the “piggish $9.29/watt” quoted in your (excellent) it would seem that, as with eSolar’s Sierra project, Kimberlina was a ‘first of kind’ plant involving R&D costs that would not be present in later and larger commercial projects. It’s also important to note that solar thermal plants have higher capacity factors (annual output per peak watt) than PV because they utilize their inherent thermal mass and in this case, storage. As a result, $/kWh are proporionally lower than the simple $/W would suggest.

  2. admin says:

    Update: Craig Robb, managing director of Zions Energy Link, a new division of National Bank of Arizona said:

    “We’ve been able to use this program as intended, which is to spur economic development. Already to-date we have committed over $100 million in transactions, which NBAZ will be the direct or indirect recipient of the grant. Roughly two thirds of the $9 million is from Soaring Heights in Tucson.”

  3. Edgar A. Gunther says:

    Yes, the simple $/W metric is flawed. However, the Treasury Grant awards provide rare project cost transparency based on $/W. A $/kWh comparison requires many assumptions and the companies are unlikely to (will never) share the relevant spreadsheets used in the calculations. I don’t even know if AREVA or Ausra has ever published actual kWh performance data for Kimberlina?

    Another conclusion is the ITC/Treasury Grant is a blunt incentive based solely on installed capacity cost instead of being a performance based incentive for generated kWh. I doubt any tax equity investor would invest in prototype CSP projects which is why all the companies opted for the TG to cover 30% of their R&D.

  4. Michael says:

    Gunther, this is a great article, thanks for posting. I went to the TGP website, and tried to download the complete list of TGP recipients. It was an .xls file but it seems my excel can’t recognize it. Do you have a copy of the file and would you mind forwarding it to me? thanks for your help.

    Michael

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