Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today toured the Abengoa Solana Generating Station, a 280-megawatt solar energy project under construction in the Arizona desert, to learn more about the facility's innovative technology and the city's commitment to encouraging responsible solar energy development.
"The nation's clean energy future is happening right now, right here in Gila Bend," Salazar said in brief remarks at the construction site. "This community, like many in the Southwest, is powering innovation and becoming a magnet for solar energy projects because of its abundant sunlight and the foresight of its leaders. This cutting edge solar facility exemplifies the type of projects that are generating significant investment and job creation around the country, while strengthening local economies."
Joined by Gila Bend Mayor Ron Henry, Salazar met with project officials, including Abengoa's CEO Manuel Sánchez, and toured the 3 square mile construction site, meeting some of the 900 plus construction workers manufacturing parabolic trough mirror modules, the molten salt thermal energy storage tanks and the solar field.
Salazar praised what he called the dramatic economic shift taking place in the Gila Bend area, which has recently attracted about a dozen commercial-scale projects because of its intense sunshine and the town's zoning policy that prioritizes review of solar plants, saving companies time and money in their permitting.
Salazar's visit comes on the heels of Interior's approval of the first-ever solar project on public lands in Arizona -- Next Era's 300 megawatt Sonoran Solar Energy Project. Interior is ramping up efforts to spur renewable energy on public lands in the state, recently identifying two additional Arizona priority project for review this year -- the 100 megawatt Solar Reserve "Quartzsite" project and the 500 megawatt BP Wind "Mohave County Wind Farm" project.
Additionally, Interior is working to establish meaningful solar energy zones with transmission solutions and incentives for solar energy development in six western states, including Arizona. The blueprint's early, comprehensive analysis will ultimately make for faster, better permitting of large-scale solar projects on public lands.
The Solana Generating Station that Salazar visited today is being constructed by Abengoa and, when completed, is expected to provide enough electricity to power 70,000 homes. Located on private lands about 12 miles west of Gila Bend, the project will generate more than 1,600 construction jobs over three years and provide 65 permanent, highly qualified operating jobs when completed in 2013.
The plant will employ concentrating solar power technology that uses 3,200 advanced parabolic trough collectors to concentrate the sun's thermal energy to drive a conventional steam turbine. Thermal storage in molten salt tanks will provide up to 6 hours of dispatchable energy to be used after sunset or if cloudy, a highly useful capability to meet heavier evening power demands.
Abengoa will invest more than $2 billion in direct and indirect payments during construction, which began in late December 2010 and is about one-third completed. Abengoa has a Power Purchase Agreement with Arizona Public Service.
Under the Obama Administration's renewable energy initiative, Salazar has approved 27 commercial-scale renewable energy projects on public lands, or the transmission associated with them, since 2009, including 16 solar projects, 4 wind farms and 7 geothermal facilities. Together these projects represent more than 6,500 megawatts, 12,500 jobs and when built, will power about 2.3 million homes.
In addition, more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines have been identified for expedited review. Demonstrating its commitment to job creation and modernizing America's infrastructure, the Administration announced in October that it would accelerate the permitting and construction of seven proposed electric transmission lines. One of these, a 460-mile, 500 kilovolt transmission line know as Sunzia, will run through Arizona if approved.
Following this morning's visit, Salazar will hold a roundtable meeting in Phoenix with key business leaders and renewable energy stakeholders to discuss opportunities to unlock clean energy jobs and promote renewable energy development in the state and on tribal lands.