Solana — Abengoa’s concentrating solar power project (CSP) not far from Phoenix — is 80% complete, the Seville, Spain–based sustainable energy developer announced November 28. With a rated power generation capacity of 280 megawatts (MW), Solana — located about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona — will be one of the world’s largest solar power plants. With molten salt solar thermal storage capacity of about six hours, it will also be able to reliably supply clean, renewable electricity at night and during cloudy periods, helping meet peak electricity demand across the region.
As a clear demonstration of the multiple benefits and advantages large-scale solar power projects can bring to local communities, states, and the nation, more than 2,000 workers are on-site at Solana installing the 32,000 parabolic trough solar collectors of which the finalized project will consist. A workforce of 85 permanent staff will see to Solana’s ongoing operation and maintenance once it’s completed. The project is also generating indirect jobs in the local economy. All told, Abengoa’s initial estimates of job creation for the project have been exceeded, the company reported.
Projects like Solana are doing a lot to improve the ecological footprint of the U.S. energy landscape. Solana will produce enough clean, renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 70,000 homes, reducing CO2 emissions by some 475,000 tons per year, according to Abengoa. Projects such as this are helping green the U.S. energy value chain and helping realize state, national, and international goals regarding renewable energy and climate change mitigation.
Green Power, Jobs, & A Big Economic Boost
In addition to green jobs and the local economic boost, Solana will also yield substantial tax revenue to cash-strapped governments. Another leading CSP industry player, BrightSource Energy, this past week published a riposte to an LA Times article critical of large-scale solar power projects. As BrightSource states, “the counties where utility-scale solar projects are being built are benefiting significantly in direct and economic investments, tax revenues and job creation.”
To get a better idea of what’s involved in constructing large-scale solar projects, Abengoa briefly described Solana’s supply chain. It spans 27 states coast to coast, including Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, and Oregon. Contracts have been signed with 90 companies.
“As a result, a new workforce is being trained that will contribute to the needed cost reductions in an industry that contributes to keeping the United States competitive in the 21st century,” Abengoa states in its press release.
The federal government pitched in with critical support for the project. Abengoa benefited from a Dept. of Energy (DOE) federal loan guarantee of $1.45 billion “that facilitated the financial close with the Federal Financing Bank (FFB) and to begin the plant’s construction,” the company recounted.
Abengoa has three similar CSP projects in the works — one in the US and two in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. The Seville-based renewable energy systems developer has gotten a total of 743 MW of rated capacity up and running around the world and has another 910 MW under construction.
Photo Credit: Abengoa
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.