Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yuma Arizona Lures Solar Plants

Yuma County's sunny weather is attracting more than winter visitors — it's also a lure for solar energy projects with a potential for at least five plants being developed in the next few years.

The Agua Caliente solar plant is already under construction on private land near Dateland, while Arizona Public Service Co. recently announced plans for a solar plant near Hyder to be built next year.

Three additional solar projects have been proposed to be located on federal land in Yuma County, with a fourth pending in nearby Hyder Valley just across the county line, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Together, they would generate thousands of megawatts of power.

The use of solar energy can be found today all over Arizona on private land. Small commercial facilities and self-supporting structures such as streetlights and weather stations are everywhere.

In 2008, BLM Arizona experienced a “gold rush” of right-of-way applications for solar facilities across the state. Solar development companies or “prospectors” are looking at portions of the 12.2 million acres of public land administered by the BLM in Arizona as potential areas for solar power generators.

Friday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a comprehensive environmental analysis that has identified proposed “solar energy zones” on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah most suitable for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production.

The detailed study, known as the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), was compiled over the past two years as part of the Obama administration's efforts to create a framework for developing renewable energy in the right way and in the right places, stated a news release.

Arizona has three proposed solar energy zones, with a total of 16, 492 acres. They include the large-scale Sonoran project south of Buckeye, the Quartzsite project in La Paz County north of Interstate 10 and the Hyder Valley project east of Hyder.

Criteria for selection as a solar energy zone included relatively flat land, access to power transmission lines, no significant cultural sites and no established endangered species, said David Godfrey, public affairs specialist for the BLM office in Arizona.

While Yuma County was not selected as a solar energy zone, it still is busy as a site for proposed solar projects on both private and public lands, Godfrey noted.

Pending solar projects for which applications have been made for rights of way on federal land in Yuma County include:

• Palomas, a 500-megawatt solar plant to be located in the Hyder area. The applicant is First Solar.

• Agua Caliente, a solar project that is independent of the Agua Caliente that now is under construction in eastern Yuma County. This project is proposed by Solar Reserve on federal land to be located on the Yuma-Maricopa County line north of Interstate 8. It would generate 600 megawatts of power.

• Wildcat Quartzsite to be located south of Quartzsite along U.S. 95 would generate 800 megawatts of power. The applicant is Bright Source Energy.

These projects are all in the very early stages and still have to work through the environmental review process, Godfrey said. “They've filed the paperwork but not a lot is going on.”

The Hyder Valley solar project would generate 325 megawatts of power. It is further along than the other projects pending for federal land in southwestern Arizona, Godfrey said. Construction could start in 2013.

In contrast, the Agua Caliente plant now being developed by First Solar would generate 290 megawatts of power slated for Southern California. It is scheduled for completion in 2013.

The APS plant in Hyder would provide 17 megawatts of power, enough for 4,250 homes, that is slated for APS customers in Arizona. Construction is expected to begin in June and be completed by late 2011. The plant is being developed by SunEdison for APS.

Godfrey said CSP (concentrating solar power) technology is being proposed for the solar plants on the federal land, versus photovoltaic technology in the Agua Caliente and APS Hyder plants.

CSP technology concentrates solar power, converting it to high-temperature heat that is channeled through conventional generators, according to a website on the technology. It tends to use more water for cooling than photovoltaic systems. But it has some advantages, such as a potential for storing the solar power.

The Draft Solar Energy PEIS document is available online at Maps are available at

The public is encouraged to provide comment on the draft plan during the next 90 days. Written comments can be submitted at or mailed to: Solar Energy Draft Programmatic EIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Ave. - EVS/240, Argonne, IL 60439.


1 comment:

Mr.Burton said...

This is fantastic! I wish all of these plants would be CSP. While the disadvantages are true (water source or heat sink is required) The life of the mirrors used exceed PV cell life.

Secondly, CSP plants already use technology that exists, making CSP plants cheaper.