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Solar plant operator goes bankrupt

The operator of a proposed Riverside County solar energy plant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week, citing financial difficulties from its German parent company.

Solar Trust of America’s German parent company, Solar Millennium, filed for bankruptcy last year.

The 1,000 megawatt Riverside County project, near Blythe, would have been the largest solar plant in the world. The company also owned the nearby 500 megawatt Palen project.

A series of solar energy company bankruptcies, most notably Fremont-based Solyndra, have involved solar panel manufacturers. But Solar Trust is a large-scale solar power plant, in the same style as the large projects taking shape in the High Desert like BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar plant near Primm, the Calico solar project east of Barstow and Abengoa’s solar plant.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the plant for a groundbreaking ceremony last year.

The company had been awarded a $2.1 billion Energy Department loan guarantee but had not  receive any funds. It withdrew from the program in August 2011 as it worked to convert the proposed plant to solar photovoltaic technology.

The project could be revived if another company acquired Solar Trust of America’s assets in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

More federal loan guarantees available

Solar energy companies may be able to receive additional funds from the Department of Energy after the department announced last week that eligible companies could apply for new funding.

Because of the decision, first reported by the New York Times, companies that tried to access the portion of the 2009 stimulus bill but were unable to do so because the department cut off the financing after Solyndra’s bankruptcy last year may have another chance to receive some level of funding.

Potentially, the funds could be used for projects in the High Desert if the companies chose to do so.

The change, which uses funds appropriated during budget negotiations last year, is part of a similar loan program that was authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, not the 2009 stimulus bill.

It had previously required companies to pay a fee upfront for the loan but the new funding will offset that.

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