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Clean Power agua caliente solar project is world's largest

Published on September 11th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Largest Solar PV Project in World, Agua Caliente Solar Project, Turns up the Heat on Congress

September 11th, 2012 by  

Anti–solar power leadership in Congress is all set to put the kibosh on the Department of Energy’s loan program in an upcoming vote, but there will be a 290-megawatt gorilla at roll call: Arizona’s massive Agua Caliente photovoltaic power plant, which is a standout example of the loan program’s overall success.

Agua Caliente is still under construction, but the plant’s operators have just ramped it up to 250 megawatts, which already makes it the largest operating photovoltaic power plant in the world.

agua caliente solar project is world's largest

No More Solyndras, No More Jobs

Our friends over at The Hill report that Congress will vote later this week on the “No More Solyndras Act,” a Republican-sponsored bill that would severely curtail the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee program.

Though the GOP is apparently milking the effort to undercut President Obama’s odds for re-election (The Hill notes that “House lawmakers will hold an array of hearings and votes this week that will provide fresh chances to cast President Obama’s green agenda as an affront to the economy”), the Loan Guarantee Program is not a creation of the President’s administration.

The program was established under the Bush administration in 2005, and its success has been well documented in the growth of the U.S. alternative energy sector since then.

As for the notorious Solyndra bankruptcy, from its inception the loan program had risk built into its DNA, and it was designed to absorb those risks. An independent report earlier this year suggested some tweaks but confirmed the overall integrity of the program.

The Agua Caliente project alone has been credited with creating about 400 jobs, which would not exist today, along with thousands of others, if not for the loan guarantee program.

Global Solar Leadership for the U.S.A.

It’s an open secret that today’s Republican Party makes no bones about killing off job-creating federal initiatives for political gain, even ones that enjoyed bipartisan support just a few years ago.

Adding insult to injury, this scorched-earth strategy could have long-lasting consequences for America’s ability to become a global leader in exporting new energy technologies.

Growing the domestic alternative energy sector is only part of the aim of the Loan Guarantee Program. The program also seeks to carve out a leadership post for the U.S. in the white-hot global alternative energy market.

Agua Caliente, for example, incorporates two innovations that have enabled the project to come online in stages, with the first 30 megawatts turned on just seven months after construction started in the fall of 2010.

Republican leadership should be reminded of the long history of scorched-earth operations, in which military campaigns are often won, but at great cost to civilian life and livelihood.

Image: Agua caliente (hot water). Some rights reserved by Velo Steve.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • what a crock. obviously liberal propaganda masquerading as journalistic expose. what we need to reel in is the massive tendency of well-placed “advisors” to promote their own pet projects to the DOE and the agency’s aversion to natural forms of energy production. the program may have started as useful and lawful but has been abused of late. obviously, more effective safeguards against misuse must be enacted. the Fact is that Solar power will never be as useful as hydro-, geothermal-, and nuclear- power systems, regardless of how much we would like it to.

    • Bob_Wallace

      How do you define “useful” Joe?

      The electricity coming from of your wall outlet is exactly the same regardless whether it came from solar panels, nuclear or burning coal.
      But here’s the fun fact. The electricity that comes from solar panels is cheaper than electricity from burning coal (if you do complete accounting) and cheaper than electricity from new nuclear.

      Do you know that having a lot of solar on the grid in Germany is making the cost of electricity cheaper?

      Do you know that wind is the cheapest way to generate electricity in the US?
      I bet you didn’t….

  • jbert…..that’s roughly 4 panels per man per day…..where DO you people get your figures? Here in the actual world, where we actually DO install systems, we do about 15-20 panels a day per man…and THAT, is on a pitched roof. It takes an average of 2 days to install a 10k system (40 panels) but with a utility grade project….you have much more speed, as the racking is way faster, the panels are right there, there is less infrastructure for strings, inverters and “pieces parts”, no skyjacking for 2 story roofs……
    If you don’t like renewable energy, fine, but imbecilic level rhetoric is very childish, and makes you sound…(insert one of many words meaning “less than knowledgeable”)

  • jburt56

    About 3 worker-years of labor required for each MW of installed capacity at Agua Caliente.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Where did you find that information?

    • globi

      This is doubtful since it would mean that a US-labourer is hardly able to install a single PV-module per hour. But even if this was the case at an annual salary of $50’000 it would only add $0.15 /W to the project costs or roughly 0.4 cents/kWh at 2000 kWh/kWp and year – 0.4 cents/kWh which relieve the unemployment purse.

      • Bob_Wallace

        There may be something wrong in these numbers. New racking systems make installation very fast.

        Perhaps if one adds all the hours involved in site prep, installing racks, build fences and road, etc. then….

  • Im not sure this is the largest in the world, i know its not even the largest one being proposed

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