Solar power heads south

The Arizona Public Service Company plans to build a 280MW concentrating solar power plant 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, near Gila Bend.


The Arizona Public Service Company (APS) plans to build a 280MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, near Gila Bend.


The new Solana Generating Station will produce enough energy to serve 70,000 APS customers when operating at full capacity. Built by Abengoa Solar, it is scheduled to start providing renewable energy in 2011. If it was in operation today, the facility would be the largest solar power plant in the world.


Solana will employ technology that can produce and store energy during the day, and then provide that energy for use by APS customers across periods of peak demand. APS will purchase 100 per cent of the plant’s energy output, pending approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission. The value of the produced energy will be about $4bn over 30 years.


Unlike traditional solar-photovoltaic plants, which use direct sunlight to produce electricity, concentrating solar power uses the sun’s heat. Parabolic mirrors track the sun and focus solar energy onto a liquid. Once heated, the liquid is used to convert water into steam, which turns the plant’s turbines to create electricity.


Within the last 90 days, APS has announced two major solar projects. The company recently announced that it is has joined a multi-state consortium of southwestern utilities that have an interest in developing a separate 250MW solar power plant. Should that project proceed, APS customers will receive a portion of the energy from the joint development project, as well as all of the energy from the Solana facility.


APS currently provides its customers with 131.5MW of renewable energy, enough to power more than 37,000 homes. With the addition of Solana, APS will provide enough renewable energy to serve 100,000 homes. As APS’ largest source of renewable energy, Solana will more than triple the company’s renewable energy resources.


APS, Arizona’s largest and longest-serving electricity utility, serves about 1.1 million customers in 11 of the state’s 15 counties.