Arizona solar plant reaches historic mark

July 17, 2012 at 6:50 AM

TEMPLE, Ariz., July 17 (UPI) -- A solar project in Arizona is delivering more than 200 megawatts of power to the regional grid though it's only 60 percent complete, companies said.

Project companies NRG Energy Inc., MidAmerican Solar and First Solar, Inc. announced their Agua Caliente solar project was close to its 290 MW capacity in Yuma County, Ariz.

California utility company Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has a long-term purchase agreement for power from the project. Aqua Caliente is expected to offset more than 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide during the next 25 years.

Aqua Caliente is the largest operating solar power plant of its kind. Full capacity is expected by 2014.

Financing for Aqua Caliente was secured through a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama's domestic energy policy have labeled that program wasteful after solar panel company Solyndra, recipient of a $535 million loan guarantee, declared bankruptcy.

U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of an investigative subcommittee, last week introduced draft legislation that would phase out the loan guarantee program, enacted in 2005.

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