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NRG Energy invests $300m in Ivanpah solar project

NRG Energy is joining with BrightSource Energy as lead investor on the under-construction Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California.

NRG, a New Jersey-based generation company making a major pushintorenewables, says it will invest up to $300m in the 392MW project over the next three years.

NRG’s subsidiary NRG Solar signed a letter of intent to partner with Ivanpah developer BrightSource on construction, financing, ownership and operation of the solar power tower project.

Work has begun on Ivanpah in the eastern Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border. Bechtel is serving as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor, and is also an equity investor in the project.

Ivanpah has cleared all of its permitting hurdles. Most recently, the California Energy Commission voted Tuesday to deny a request for reconsideration of its September approval. Opponents cited concerns that a genetically unique population of desert tortoise present at the project site had not been given adequate consideration.

NRG chief executive David Crane says the company’s investment represents an equity position in the project of 40%-60%. The total project financing of roughly $2.1bn is anticipated to be 75% debt and 25% equity. Much of the debt will come from an anticipated Department of Energy loan guarantee of $1.38bn, “which has basically enabled this project”, he says, adding the debt financing is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011.