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Abengoa Solar gets $1.45 billion for Arizona plant

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President Obama announces a big federal loan for a big concentrated solar plant in Arizona.

Over Independence Day weekend, President Obama announced a $1.45 billion conditional commitment to Spanish company Abengoa Solar Inc.

The loan guarantee is to construct Solana, a 250-megawatt, concentrated solar power (CSP) facility, to be located near Gila Bend, Arizona. Using about 900,000 mirrors and covering 1,900 acres, the facility might end up being the largest CSP plant in the world.

The solar-thermal facility will collect sunlight in “troughs,”  strategically arranged mirrors that direct sunlight to heat water within tubes to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Steam then powers large turbines. To run at the highest efficiency, these systems need to collect a lot of heat. The plants are usually very large and in areas with almost constant sunny days, like Arizona (or Abu Dhabi, where the company is also helping to build a 100-MW CSP plant, announced last month).

President Obama during his weekly address:

After years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America.

An estimated 1,600 construction jobs will result from the project, with around 80 longer termed positions at the facility. According to the statement, more than 70 percent of the plant's materials will be U.S.-made. When finished, Abengoa expects Solana to generate enough electricity to power about 70,000 homes and lessen CO2 emissions by approximately 475,000 tons.

Solana's six-hour thermal energy storage will allow it to send electricity to Arizona Public Service Company after the sun sets.

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure