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Former Calico Solar manufacturer declares bankruptcy

The manufacturing company originally slated to provide a portion of technology for the Calico solar project has declared bankruptcy.

Arizona-based Stirling Energy Systems stopped all operations mid-September after ongoing struggles to find third-party investors for capital. SES never received federal funding from either of the the two Department of Energy programs for alternative energy companies and projects, according to the DOE website.

SES was supposed to manufacture its SunCatchers for its sister company Tessera Solar, the original owner of the solar project 17 miles from Newberry Springs. But in 2010, when Tessera sold the project to K Road Power, K Road replaced most of the planned SunCatcher technology with solar panels, leaving only 100 megawatts of the 660 megawatt plant for SES’ mirrored dishes.

Calico is awaiting approval from the California Energy Commission for its changes to the project. On Monday the Commission will hear a complaint from BNSF Railway that Calico misrepresented its plans in its original application, since it is not constructing the majority of its project out of SunCatchers anymore.

Sean Gallagher, managing director of government relations for K Road, said the company has to decide how to move forward with that 100 megawatts, now that SES has declared bankruptcy.

DOE: We regularly audit loan recipients

The Department of Energy has a regular auditing schedule with all loan recipients, it says, amidst reports that the federal agency should have been able to predict the failures of Solyndra Inc., the solar manufacturing company that went bankrupt earlier this month despite a $500 million federal loan.

The DOE’s Loan Program Office wrote in an e-mail that its staff “is in regular contact with the management team of the companies they monitor,” adding that the regular contact includes weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual updates and audits on construction progress and financial activities.

The Ivanpah solar project near the California/Nevada border receives portions of its $1.6 billion loan in increments, once they submit monthly lists of activities, and all related costs, said Keeley Wachs, spokesman for BrightSource, one of the partners for the project, along with Google and NRG.

The infomation is sent to a third party, Parsons Engineering, which then supplies a report to the DOE that indicates they can give Ivanpah the requested funds. The DOE will also come on site for physical audits.

“It’s a very extensive auditing program,” Wachs said.

Scott Frier, chief operating officer for Abengoa Solar, is out of the country and not available for comment on the federal loan for the Abengoa Mojave Solar project near Hinkley.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or smitchell@desertdispatch.com


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