Solar Power Heats Up in Arizona

Arizona, which aims to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2025, according to CNN, recently came one step closer to that goal. Abengoa …

Arizona, which aims to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2025, according to CNN, recently came one step closer to that goal.

Abengoa Solar, a Spain-based company, “is planning to take 3 square miles of desert southwest of Phoenix and turn them into one of the largest solar power plants in the world,” according to a CNN article published last month. The 280-megawatt plant, which will be called Solana, will be built in Gila Bend; construction could begin as early as next year, according to the article.

The temperature in Gila Bend can reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, which factors into how this particular solar plant will operate: “the plant will use thousands of giant mirrors to harness the sun’s heat. That will heat up liquids, which will spin turbines—just like coal or other power plants but without the pollution,” according to the article.

Solana’s technology differs from most solar energy projects, which generate energy by harnessing light from the sun, by capturing and using heat from the sun instead.

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“The solar trough technology uses trackers with high precision parabolic mirrors that follow the sun’s path and concentrate its energy, heating a fluid to over 700 degrees Fahrenheit and using that heat to turn steam turbines. The solar plant will also include a thermal energy storage system that allows for electricity to be produced as required, even after the sun has set,” according to an Abengoa press release.

In addition to providing enough renewable energy to power 70,000 homes, Solana will have economic benefits for Arizona. Solana will “sell the electricity produced to [Arizona Public Service Co., a large energy utility] over the next 30 years for a total revenue of around $4 billion, bringing over $1 billion in economic benefits to the state of Arizona,” according to the article.

Further, “the construction of the Solana Generating Station will create about 1,500 construction jobs and employ 85 skilled full-time workers once completed,” according to an Abengoa press release.

Solana, which will cost $1 billion to construct, depends on the federal solar investment tax credit being extended, which both Abengoa and Arizona Public Service Co. are confident will happen, according to the article.

For individual investors, one way to get involved in solar power investing is through adding solar energy technology to a property they own. A bonus for investors who do this is that they can market their property as “green,” enabling them to increase the price for buyers or tenants of the property. (For more information on this and other aspects of investing in solar power, see our previous article Solar Power: A Bright Idea.)

For investors who are interested in investing money in solar power, but are wary of choosing a particular project, company or technology, “one exchange traded fund—the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy Portfolio (PBW), offered by PowerShares Capital Management LLC of Wheaton, Ill.—includes many companies in the solar sector,” according to InvestmentNews.

Abengoa has U.S. projects in Arizona, Texas, Colorado and California and international projects in Algeria and Morocco, in addition to projects in Spain, the company’s home country.


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