Could Gila Bend, Arizona, Become the Solar Capital of the World?

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.

Gila-bend-300x243Currently 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.


  1. Jon, It’s interesting to see you insinuate that it’s inappropriate for local governments to take control of their own future. It seems to me that this would comport very nicely with the Tea Party leanings that pervade your articles. And yes, solar energy production is more expensive than coal; in large part because coal companies are allowed to use our atmosphere as their free dumping ground. The cost will be there one way or the other. It’s simply hidden for a few years with coal. JP

      1. That’s right Jon, YOU picked the quote. As usual, you ignore the inconvenient part about using our atmosphere as a dump. JP

  2. I agree! Not only is the atmosphere the waste ground, but the product of coal is treated as a free resource.  The costs associated with our power are derived from the extraction of the coal and the conversion into electrical energy.  Solar power is truly a free resource.  Odd… Coal while not free is cheap, and solar while free isn’t so cheap. Two lessons to be learned, anything worth doing usually isn’t all that easy, and maybe you should use a bit less power John, then that fee won’t sting so much?? 

  3. Intrestingly enough, az land might become more valuable,if solar plants propagate ,and farmers find more sonornan-piped north, ocean water for crops. then,the BLM desert will vanish,replaced by energy plants  supplying cheap electric .

  4. The gold rush is on.  Renewable energy, the end game of the GW myth, now gets over half of the total federal energy subsidy dollar;  solar and wind now receive more annual subsidies than all fuel sources combined:
    2010 subsidies( EIA data):
    Renewables                          $6.56 billion
    Coal                                             1.19 billion
    Natural Gas                              .65  billion
    Nuclear                                     2.5   billion
    New York Times:  “The government support — which includes loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google.”
    Crony capitalism at work?

    1. Richard, You didn’t add the cost of coal and natural gas pumping their waste into our air. You didn’t add the cost of dumping nuclear waste. Convenient accounting . You could get a job on wall street. JP

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