The Arizona Republic - 19 Apr 09

Prof. Robert B. Laughlin
Department of Physics
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
(Copied 11 Dec 09)

Arizona Lands $1 Billion Solar Plant

by Ryan Randazzo
April 19, 2009

The Arizona Department of Commerce and Albiasa Solar of Spain will announce Monday a $1 billion solar-thermal power plant will be built near Kingman next year, generating enough power for 50,000 homes at once when it opens in 2013.

It's the third large Arizona solar plant announced in less than 18 months, although one of the first two has been scrapped and the other won't be running until 2011.

The Kingman plant will create 2,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs, according to the Commerce Department.

"The arrival of Albiasa Corp. is yet another big step toward establishing Arizona as a leader in the sustainable-industries sector," Gov. Jan Brewer said.

The Spanish company incorporated a U.S. subsidiary in August, officials said, and has been scouting the Southwest desert from offices in Phoenix and San Francisco.

Although Albiasa officials won't disclose the exact location of the 1,400 acres where they have secured the rights to build the plant, they said they chose the Kingman area because it was one of the few places with transmission capability on power lines.

"With the power loads in the Southwest cities, there are not a whole lot of power lines to get the power over there," said Jesse Tippett, managing director for Albiasa's U.S. operations.

Tippett and Albiasa's chief project engineer Albert Fong said they are negotiating with utilities in the region to purchase the power from the plant, which is a major factor in getting financing for large power projects.

They also said that they are looking to utilities, such as Arizona Public Service Co. or Pacific Gas and Electric in California, that might be willing to finance the power plant now that utilities qualify for the same federal incentives that only developers qualified for last year.

Albiasa is building a 50-megawatt plant in Spain, and plans to use the same technology in Arizona, Fong said.

One megawatt of power-generating capacity is enough for about 250 homes in Arizona at once while a power plant is running.

Solar-thermal power plants don't use the common black panels to make electricity. Instead, they use mirrors to focus sunlight on liquid-filled tubes. They use the hot fluid to make steam and spin turbines, much like coal, natural-gas and nuclear plants operate, but without the need for fuel.

Albiasa officials said they planned to use molten salt to store heat from the plant so it can keep generating power after sunset.

That also is the plan for Solana Generating Station, a 280-megawatt solar-thermal plant planned for Gila Bend by Abengoa Solar Inc. of Spain.

APS announced that it would buy the energy from that power plant once it is running in 2011. Last year, officials said they were struggling to get financing for the project, but APS spokesman Steven Gotfried said Friday the plans were moving forward.

Another 250-megawatt solar-thermal plant announced in December 2007 by APS, Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power Co. and several smaller utilities has been shelved because the power companies apparently couldn't come to agreement on the project.