June 29, 2008

The Arizona Desert Goes Green

Melanie Pahlmann reporting

Hear the 1 minute show:

The Arizona desert is one of the hottest and sunniest places on earth, so it was only a matter of time before solar energy technology would make its way there.

In early 2009, a Spanish solar power company will break ground outside the little town of Gila Bend, southwest of Phoenix, to build what will be the world's largest solar power plant. At maximum capacity, the Solana Power Plant will supply at least 70,000 households.

Abengoa Solar, which has built plants in Spain, northern Africa and other parts of the U.S. – will own and operate the $1 billion plant. Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility, will pay Abengoa $4 billion over 30 years for the energy produced.

The deal has been forged, but there's one possible glitch: The plant hinges on an extension of the federal solar investment tax credit, due to expire at the end of this year. APS and Abengoa said they're confident that this won't derail the project. Perhaps they know something we don't. To date, we have no news on where Congress currently stands on the issue. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is not feeling particularly positive about it, as he notes in an Op-Ed piece from April 30, 2008:

Few Americans know it, but for almost a year now, Congress has been bickering over whether and how to renew the investment tax credit to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production tax credit to encourage investment in wind energy. The bickering has been so poisonous that when Congress passed the 2007 energy bill last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those for wind and solar have been left to expire this December. I am not making this up. At a time when we should be throwing everything into clean power innovation, we are squabbling over pennies.

If you feel concerned, there is something you can do to help save the federal solar investment tax credit. Call or email your Representative and both Senators and ask them to urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to keep the ITC extension in the Energy Bill.

To locate your Representative and Senators' Washington phone number, go to this web address and type in your zip code:

You can also reach your Representative and Senators' offices through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121.

To learn more about the ITC, visit:
The Green Counsel Blog
Congress.org - details on Bill # S.3125

And here is a 4 minute video about the Solana Power Plant. Gives you a sense of its immense size. Click on this link to see the video:
Solana Power Plant video