The Solana Installation of Arizona

This entry was posted by on Thursday, 10 June, 2010 at

In the desert of Arizona, a large new solar plant is under construction. According to its builder, the Spanish firm Abengoa, this will be the largest solar installation in the world, a 280 MW project which will begin construction in 2011 and reach completion in 2014. There are larger projects under construction in China although they are also not complete.

As with other large scale renewable energy projects, the Solana Installation receives loan guarantees from the federal government. This ensures that this solar project has the funding to continue its development. When the plant is complete, Abengoa intends to sell the power it generates to the Arizona Public Service, which is a state government run utility.

Solana is a type of power plant known as a Concentrating Solar Power project. This project concentrates energy collected from direct sunlight. According to a presentation given to the USDA, some solar collectors require direct energy from the sun and others can pick up diffuse energy reflected from other surfaces. A concentrating solar power plant requires direct sunlight to operate, and there are few better places to collect direct sunlight than the deserts of Arizona. The Solana installation requires 1900 acres to set up the solar plant, and there is space available in the red desert.

The Solana installation includes parabolic troughs which concentrate the sunlight. These appear as mirrored canals with a pipe running through the middle of the trough. The power plant collects the energy and can use it to melt salt. Molten salt storage is very useful since it allows a solar plant to store energy and release it into the grid for several hours at night.

Arizona, like other states including California, requires its power producers to meet renewable power generation goals in the future. According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, Arizona requires 15 percent renewable energy generation by 2025 for utilities that operate in the state. Arizona currently gets about 40 percent of its power from coal and the rest from natural gas and nuclear power, according to the Department of Energy.

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