Thursday, February 12, 2009

Arizona's New "Bumper Crop?"

Fast on the heels of Tuesday's post featuring Bill Gross and his solar energy innovations comes this morning's headlines in the local paper, The Arizona Daily Star: "AZ: The Solar Source." A quick scan of the lede supports the premise that energy-concentrating solar reflectors may have huge potential for clean energy production and distribution:

"Imagine large-scale solar-power plants being built across the Sonoran Desert, along with power lines up to 300 feet high, to export the sun's power to the rest of the West. That's the ambition of an idea the Western Governors Association and the federal government are studying — to make Arizona a solar-energy "colony" for 11 other states, two Canadian provinces and Baja California.
The governors are also looking at the other states and how much of the West's land could be set aside to build huge plants and other facilities producing sun and wind power and other renewable energy forms — and to build power lines to carry it across the West.
Solar advocates like to say Arizona and the Southwest have enough sunshine to power all the nation, so the idea carries promise for them."

It gets better:
"A square mile of desert covered with solar panels can furnish about 100 megawatts of power, says the Western Governors Association, whose $1 million study is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy."

But, predictably, out here in the deepest, perpetually boiling-red section of TV weather-map America, all is not sunshine and cactus blossoms. Some hesitant green-leaning groups and ardent environmentalists are expressing concern over the impact 300-foot tall transmission-line tower construction and placement will have on vast swaths of Arizona's pristine Sonoran Desert and on its most sensitive and vulnerable critters, habitats and ecosystems.

It remains to be seen if these conflicting interests will find paths to progress or roadblocks and impasse. But, unlike The Lone Ranger and Tonto...the relationship between the producers of clean, renewable solar energy and the wary environmentalists who try to keep them in check not only IS supposed to be going somewhere... it really must.


  1. As much as I support the environmentalists, it seems like a fair trade. So little land for so much clean, renewable power. And, yes, the electricity will have to be brought in via power lines, but that's something we should already be used to. BRAVO governors of the west!

  2. The other option is to build the solar power plants on the roof tops of existing cities.

    This removes the cost of transmission and puts the power were its needed.

    Big power companies are not as enthusiastic since it takes away there monopoly on power generation.

  3. Bumper Crop attracted my attention and raised questions. The Western Governors’ Association and Texas concur. Let’s move toward harnessing solar power. On February 2, The Austin American-Statesman frontlines—“Cities Talk Shared Energy.” Austin Energy wants to use 300 acres it owns in eastern Travis County for the nation’s largest solar array. This would produce only enough energy for 5000 homes and open in late 2010. San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte has set a goal of 3000 megawatts from solar panels by 2019 enough to supply Austin.
    The Western Governor’s Association says it will take one square mile of solar panels to supply 100 megawatts of power. At that rate, we will need thirty square miles just to supply Austin.
    I noted Seamus McDuff’s suggestion to the criticism mounted by environmentalists in “Arizona’s New Bumper Crop.” He feels we could by pass their critique of using land so important for wild life by putting the solar panels on the tops of buildings. It is not either or, we will need to use land, buildings and wind power as well to even begin to supply energy for this nation?
    How does wind power compare to solar? Might it ever be possible for us to use alternative sources of power to supply our needs for this whole nation? I wonder.

  4. Seamus commented: "The other option is to build the solar power plants on the roof tops of existing cities."

    An Arizona firm - Global Solar Energy of Tucson - is partnering with Dow Chemical Co. to manufacture a "thin, flexible photovoltaic film" molded into thermoplastic roof shingles to capture heat and produce electric power.

    Read about it here.

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