DOE backs largest rooftop solar project in U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy said on Wednesday it’s offering a partial guarantee for a $1.4 billion loan that will fund Project Amp, which will erect solar panels on hundreds of rooftops around the country. The project is the largest rooftop solar plan in the country.

The financial aid is the first DOE loan guarantee that isn’t going to a large, centralized solar power plant. Amp Project will install 733 MW of solar on about 750 rooftops run by Prologis, which owns and manages distribution warehouses in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Electricity from the project will be sold to utilities. Prologis and NRG Solar (s nrg) will co-own the project, said NRG spokeswoman Lori Neuman.

The loan guarantee applicant is Bank of America Merrill Lynch (s bac), which will provide the loan. The DOE is offering the partial guarantee under the Financial Institution Partnership Program (FIPP). FIPP is part of a loan guarantee program created by the stimulus package to boost job creation and clean power generation.

Through a loan guarantee, the government promises to repay the loan if the borrower can’t. The DOE didn’t specify how much of the $1.4 billion loan for Project Amp it is guaranteeing. The FIPP program allows the DOE to back 80 percent of a loan. FIPP focuses on backing projects that use more mature technologies, and it relies on private investors to secure the loans. In another part of the loan guarantee program, the government will provide the loans as well, through the Federal Financing Bank.

Project Amp will be carried out in phases. NRG Energy is the lead investor in the first phase, which will include a 15.4 MW array in Southern California. Southern California Edison will buy power from phase 1 of the project, which could add solar in as many as 28 states and the District of Columbia. Construction of the 15.4 MW project will begin before Sept. 30 this year.

In addition to the loan guarantee for Project Amp, the DOE has backed large solar farms in other regions of California and other southwestern states. Those projects include a 500 MW solar farm (part of a 1,000 MW project) by Solar Trust Of America, which held a ground breaking ceremony for the project in California last week. Another one under construction is a 392 MW plant in California by BrightSource Energy.

Image courtesy of Prologis