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DOE announces award of conditional guarantee for $1.3B loan to wind project

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Oct. 8 that it has issued a conditional commitment to provide a partial guarantee for a $1.3 billion loan in support of what it called the world’s largest wind farm to date.

The loan would finance the Caithness Shepherds Flat wind project, an 845-MW facility in eastern Oregon being developed by Caithness Energy LLC and General Electric Energy Financial Services.

“This project is part of the Administration’s commitment to doubling our renewable energy generation by 2012 while putting Americans to work in communities across the country,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a news release.

Once completed, the project will sell 100% of the power generated to Edison International unit Southern California Edison Co. through 20-year, fixed-price power purchase agreements. According to Caithness, the project will directly create 400 construction jobs, followed by 35 permanent jobs on the site, DOE said.

The Caithness Shepherds Flat wind project will use 338 of GE’s 2.5xl wind turbines. The wind farm is the first in North America to deploy that type of GE turbine, which has been used in Europe and Asia.

The DOE said the Caithness Shepherds Flat project is the largest project to date to receive an offer of a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee under the Financial Institution Partnership Program – a program supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The financing program guarantees up to 80% of a loan provided to a renewable energy project by qualified financial institutions. The $1.3 billion loan is expected to be funded by a group of institutional investors and commercial banks led by Citigroup Inc., as lender-applicant and joint lead arranger, and three other joint lead arrangers —Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., RBS Securities and WestLB Securities Inc.

The DOE, through the Loan Programs Office, has issued loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees to support 15 clean energy projects, resulting in $15.9 billion in total loan guarantees, the department said.