The headline of this post is the headline of a Department of Energy press release. Gila Bend, Arizona is a town with a population of about 2,000 and given to growing cotton and alfalfa.
Currently First Solar (Paloma project) and Cotton Center have solar plants under construction that will provide Arizona Public Service with enough electricity to power 9,000 homes so they claim. Several other companies have permit applications pending.
According to the article, “the town government [is expediting] the speed at which solar companies’ construction plans could get approved. Processes that usually take at least a year, and often several years, can now go through public hearings, citizen review sessions, planning and zoning commissions hearings, publication in a newspaper, and council approval in as little as four weeks.” See complete press release here.
First Solar, a Tempe manufacturer of solar panels, is one of the companies that received loan guarantees just one day before the federal program expired. Cotton Center is getting its solar panels from Solon Corp. in Tucson.
These two photovoltaic plants join the Solana plant which is a concentrating thermal solar facility that broke ground near Gila Bend in December, 2010, aided by a $1.45 billion federal loan guarantee.
This boomlet of solar installation is funded by taxpayer subsidies and is a result of the state’s renewable energy standards mandate that require electric utilities to produce at least 15% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025.
In general, electricity production from solar power is much more expensive than from coal or natural-gas fired plants . (see National Renewable Energy Standard Will Mean Higher Electricity Bills). Already I can see extra fee charges on my electric bill from Tucson Electric Power.