Gallery: World’s Largest Solar Power Plant Coming to Arizona in 2011


The lucky sunny state of Arizona is about to become home to the world’s largest Solar Plant! Thanks to a just-announced contract between Abengoa Solar and Arizona Public Service Company (APS), the enormous solar plant called Solana will power up to 70,000 homes, and will be the first example in the country of a major utility getting the majority of its energy from solar. The 1900 acre plant will be completed by 2011 — IF AND ONLY IF Congress renews the clean energy tax credit that’s set to expire at the end of 2008.

This could be a momentous environmental energy venture for the US, so now is the time to get political — we should not let this amazingly positive opportunity slip through the cracks!

The Arizona solar power plant has been named Solana, which means “a sunny place” in Spanish, and will be located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, near Gila Bend, and cover 1,900 acres. The capacity of the power plant has been projected at 280 megawatts — a capacity which could power 70,000 homes and create 1,500 jobs. The electricity generated by the plant will be sold to APS to the tune of around $4 billion for over next 30 years.

Solana will make use of Abengoa Solar‘s Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology, which is based on solar radiation concentration to generate steam or hot air, which is used by an electric plant to run steam turbines.
The CSP technology uses three different approaches to concentrate solar rays: tower technology, parabolic trough technology, and dish Stirling technology. The Solana power plant would primarily employ parabolic trough technology.

Abengoa Solar is presently operating the world’s first commercial CSP solar tower plant in Spain – which we wrote about last year. This new enormoust solar power plant could be a huge boon for renewable energy, the environment, and the local economy with all the new jobs it will create. But there’s one catch- this week the house will be voting on the renewal of a clean energy bill which would shift about $18 billion in tax breaks from oil companies to renewable energy. Essentially, Abengoa’s ambitious solar plan hinges on the passing of this bill. The current clean energy tax credit will expire at the end of 2008, which would effectively make Solana impossible if it did. So while Solana would be a huge step in the right direction for our society, the fate of its realization lies in the hands of policy makers this week.

+ Abengoa Solar

Via BusinessWire
via SolveClimate


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  2. joel william January 10, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Can i buy solar panels from your company

  3. sooraj karanamkott November 18, 2010 at 12:20 am

    one of my dream project

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  5. conbobulate November 3, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I asked myself the same questions as Unhabitat. The information is easy enough to find, and Mahesh, honestly you should research your articles better.

    The plant is being built by Abengoa Solar, at an approximate cost of $1.5 billion. The figure of 1,500 employees is a projected number that applies only during the construction phase; after commissioning it is expected to employ 65 people. As a comarison, a 200 MW coal-fired plant project I know about in Australia employed 450 people during construction, and 30 during operation, cost $400 million, uses 3GL of water annually and has an attendant coal mine that brings tears to one’s eyes.

    APS has agreed to buy all the power from the plant for a 30 year period, but assets such as this can reasonably expect to have a lifespan of 40 years. The annualised cost of the project over time will depend on prevailing interest rates, a swiftly changing subsidy environment, the choice of present value discount rate used and the assumed life span of those assets, so it would be difficult to quote in a non-technical article without loads of qualifying information attached.

    The land in question is currently in use as agricultural land, and the project is expected to use only 25% of the water currently in use there. And quoting 70,000 homes is a bit of marketing fluff, but not as much as some would expect. 4kW is an OK figure to use for household consumption, as we don’t all have our kettles, toasters, fridges, light bulbs, computers, irons and so on running at full pelt all the time (though yes, air conditioning can be an issue, since they do all tend to start up at the same time). Also power plants earn money based on the spot price of electricity on the wholesale market, so trying to calculate how much this plant will earn with simple back of the envelope formulas is a tad naive. The good thing about solar plants is that their output has good correlation with demand (a hot sunny day = lots of air conditioners on) – and when demand is high the price is high, so they tend to earn more per megawatt hour than conventional plants.

    Not being a biologist, I don’t know terribly much about the poor white-footed deer mouse. But since this project is being constructed on previously agricultural land, he’s probably not going to have his habitat destroyed – that already happened long ago.

    Interestingly, this project also requires extra 230kV transmission lines to be installed to get the power out of there. This is often a significant component of the cost of solar and wind generation because they are located away from major grid connection points.

  6. Unhabitat May 19, 2009 at 3:28 am

    – 280 MW supports 70,000 homes? I know that you can drown in an average depth of 3″ of water . . . but this equates to 4,000 watts of capacity per home. That’s a toaster, a coffee pot, a TV and a few light bulbs. Don’t they use air conditioning in Arizona? And that assumes the plant is “up” 24x7x365, or the plate capacity is higher.

    – Sales of $4 billion dollars over 30 years? That’s somewhere between $0.068 per KWH assuming 80% operating uptime, $0.054 at 100%. Those are pretty good numbers, and shouldn’t need subsidy. But wait . . . too good to be true with 1500 jobs and $0.05 per kwh in labor costs . . . and what about capital, maintenance, and profits?

    I don’t know which numbers are wrong, or why numbers are missing. But no one should say “WOW!” without them

  7. Unhabitat May 19, 2009 at 3:17 am

    I’ve reviewed a lot of these articles, and they *never* contain enough numbers to verify anything. And the numbers that are included point to scary conclusions.

    When that happens, I give these articles as much credibility as an email from the wife of the Prime Minister of Nigeria.

    For example:

    – I couldn’t find the capital cost of the plant. That’s important because part of the cost of the power includes (a) return on capital and (b) maintenance costs. Both of these are driven by the capital cost.

    – 1,500 jobs sounds high, and probably includes (a) jobs created by construction (short term jobs) and (b) ongoing plant labor. If we assume they are all permanent jobs, and use $60k per employee and 292 operating days for the plant, the labor cost alone is about $0.05 per kwh.
    (More next post)

  8. cjevang March 31, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    “I’ve read in articles a large solar panel on a residence or business produces much more electricity than the building can use.” quoted from Cin4711

    Does anyone know where to get these amazing solar panels? I will be the 1st to buy them. Home solar systems are a start people, albeit expensive. Eventually plants such as these will replace a similar sized coal plant. I’ve worked in and around a 600 MW coal plant, and it is disgusting. There is a huge amount of land required to house and store the coal, as well as the plant. The argument against using previously disturbed desert land is moot. if a 1KW home system has the effect of 10 trees, this plant would have the effect of 2.8 million trees cleaning the air. That is what is important.

  9. katec February 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I am interested in re-directing my career goals and would love to work on any job or project to improve the live of the World, and my community. This is an enormous project and one that would be exciting to see complete. We get more sun here in Arizona than california, and should use it to it\’s fullest potential. If anyone has a job available in this project please put that information out. I\’m ready for a new direction in my career.

  10. jodawson December 16, 2008 at 4:19 am

    really mindblowing….

  11. cin4711 November 11, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Why build sprawling solar power plants? I’ve read in articles a large solar panel on a residence or business produces much more electricity than the building can use. I’ve heard of some areas where you can sell back your excess solar generated power to the electric company. But I’ve heard in some states that over sizing solar panels is not legal–change is needed there. If selling excess solar power to electric companies from “over sized” panels were legal then there would be incentive for home owners to go solar. If enough homes and businesses did this it would provide clean energy for those who could not install solar panels. No habit loss, roofs are everywhere. Maybe some of those old dirty power plants could then be retired… Add electric cars powered by solar energy and environmental problems could really be solved.

  12. william-newton July 18, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    gave the solar to the people and have work crews go around and install and maintain them, why let big brother do it , you know it’s all about money, if you have solar at your house, you win, if they have all the solar you lose. i don’t have deer mice at my house… one person can bomb the hole thing. . where’s your head at . if you are going to do something for the people do it at there house, each house would be worth more,

  13. william-newton July 18, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    why don\’t they let the people do it and give them the money, they could have crews go around and sat it up for them and show them how it works and how to maintain them and trouble shoot for them when they need help, less chance of someone bombing one place and and making it bad for all. everybody should have solar at there home site, it\’s the best way

  14. kyneil July 11, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    how much did the company spend for building the solar power plant??

    how much is the capacity of the said plant??

  15. sarahtedford July 6, 2008 at 3:49 am

    With all the shade created I wonder what new creatures will start to thrive in the patch of a new microclimate.

  16. s s karnde May 7, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Please note another greatest Solar Power plant is being construted. Being done as Biggest all over the world, I am sure of repeating the exceptional efficiency of this project in Arizona,

  17. NewWays » Green/C... April 11, 2008 at 3:25 am

    […] process. The Sunhope project seeks to circumvent all of these factors by constructing low-cost photovoltaic arrays designed for vertical clearance rather than horizontal […]

  18. Kerry M. Berger March 12, 2008 at 7:01 am

    I wonder why this plant is utilizing only water to produce steam, and not ammonia or some other chemical that boils at a lower ambient temperature? Aside from the issue of pipe corrosion when utilizing caustic chemicals such as ammonia, at least when there are cloudy or rainy/snowy days, energy can still be generated. Residual stored heated water might continue the process of generating power over night if ammonia were utilized. Any Engineers out there who could elaborate on this?

  19. Phoenix Noise » B... March 6, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    […] Service Company (APS) and Abengoa Solar announced a contract for Arizona to become home to the world’s largest solar plant. The plans for completion in 2011 depend on Congress renewing the clean energy tax credit in 2008. […]

  20. Christopher March 4, 2008 at 9:19 am

    As far as Deer Mice are concerned, if there is nothing for them to eat on the 1,900 acres they will move to one of the many agricultural fields in the area.
    That is a big plus for the prey species, coyotes, raptors, snakes etc as there won’t be many hiding places amongst the array.
    I did not see a location in GB mentioned but i would suspect it will be along side the new power plant that was just built there on Watermelon Road.
    The more we expand this technology the more feasible ($$) it may become for the business/homeowner.

  21. Nick Simpson March 3, 2008 at 6:17 am

    1900 acres really isn’t that massive Besoeker…

  22. Besoeker March 2, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Has anyone considered that this “enormous” plant is projected to produce less than 0.02% of US consumption of just electrical energy?

  23. bam March 1, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Does anyone know what the water requirements for this system are?

  24. Nick Simpson March 1, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Good news, thanks Jill!

  25. Jill Fehrenbacher February 28, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    The house passed the clean energy tax credit bill yesterday!!!!


  26. Jonce February 28, 2008 at 1:25 am

    Meredith, The three sq. miles in which APS is proposing to build the facility is not virgin desert land. It is land that has already been altered.

    In addition to the federal tax bill there is the obsticle of land entitlement. The Special Use Permit and the Comprehensive Plan Amendment that will be required by the County before construction can even begin will take at least a year. Let’s hope that all the hoops will be easy to jump through for this exciting project!

  27. Nick Simpson February 27, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Meredith, I see your point but there are vast swaithes of American desert torn apart by oil drilling etc – if these plants simply take their place it’ll be an even swap. Besides, there’s plenty of desert, you’re hardly going to run out. In fact if climate change keeps going you’re going to have more than you know what to do with…

    I see Eric’s point too, although as Rem says they’ll be incredibly cheap in the long run so the costs should balance. Plus as with anything else automation will reduce the number of employees I’m sure. As with many things like this, I simply don’t see there being a choice here, this kind of technology must be adopted.

    Anyway, as I said before, anyone know if the clean energy tax credit was renewed by Congress?

  28. Rem February 27, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Let’s see;
    • Creates lots of electricity from sun-light – will be really cheap in the long-long term.
    • Creates 1500 jobs – thus reducing unemployment, boosting the economy
    • Creates no pollution, thus helping to reduce the strain of dependency on fossil fuel power stations
    • Has minimal long-term affect on local environment*

    All looks good for us, and our grand-children.

    * I’m guessing a few access routes will be constructed, and the actual construction will disturb the local flora & fauna, but once all that commotion is finished, the “locals” will resettle, including those little deer-mice.

  29. Eric February 27, 2008 at 3:08 am

    1500 jobs for a 280 MW plant? If they need that many people to keep the mirrors clean this thing will never be viable for more than a pilot project here and there. I’ll bet a 280 MW coal plant employs a tenth of that workforce.

  30. John A. Doe February 27, 2008 at 2:36 am


    The $18 billion tax break is a number associated with the entire industry, not just for this project.

  31. Chat February 26, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    I hope this trend keeps on going. Here in my home town in Iowa we just got a big wind power factory in. Did anyone happen to catch the nuclear shutdown in Florida today by the way?

  32. Meredith February 26, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    While this is a hugely positive project for clean energy, I worry about the lack of concern given to desert ecosystem on which 1900-acre installation will sprawl. People would be up in arms if this was proposed in a lush, flowery biome that is visibly rich in flora and fauna– but what about the health and integrity of this desert ecology? Just because we can’t see all that the system possesses or reap the same type of benefits for ourselves doesn’t mean that we should respect it any less. I am not against solar energy but I oppose blindly pursuing a narrow agenda without taking into account the repercussions of the action (industrial revolution, anyone?)

  33. Nick Simpson February 26, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    So, anyone know whether that shift of 18m was passed or not?

  34. Kiz February 26, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    The whitefooted deer mice will have the privlege of continuing life in the stewardship of mankind. Elsewhere.

  35. BD February 26, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Don’t worry, Randy. Nothing cute lives near Gila Bend. The only things there are dirt and sun.

  36. Kevin February 26, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Has anyone wondered why they need a 18 billion dollar tax cut to make 4 billion dollars over the next 30 years? I understand that not all of it would be going to this project alone, but it sounds to me like the technology isn’t there to make this a financially viable option.

  37. Vedran February 26, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Good job USA! Finaly!

  38. Lee February 26, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Randy, if it works out well, maybe Tucson will be able to get into too and we can replace this nasty coal power plant that will doom more than just white footed deer mice.

  39. John February 26, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Has anyone considered the impact acid rain (caused by burning fossil fuels) is having on all creatures great and small?

  40. Benglued February 26, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Wow , US is get the one . thats great

  41. john February 26, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Oh please impact on the mice?
    the little mice-ies will like the shade underneath the panels perhaps : ). Just keep them out of the electrical boxes.

  42. AZ Solar Juicer February 26, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    The time has come for solar power in the Southwest, windpower in the Midwest and ocean power in the East. Tax credit or not, economics will tend (then strain) toward renewable energy. It’s like getting a job before the trust fund runs out.

    Please not another post about doing this all over the world, or repeating the exceptional efficiency of this project. It is in Arizona, not the UK. The sun power is related closely to the location, climate, altitude and other factors.

  43. matt February 26, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Well we’ve definitely though of the white footed deer mice! Don’t you know that taking habitat is what we do?

  44. Rob Holiday February 26, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    “which would shift about $18 billion in tax breaks from oil companies to renewable energy”

    Why the H.e. double toothpicks would the oil companies need an $18B tax break????!!!!! If anything, the oil companies should be paying increased taxes!

  45. Randy February 25, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Has anyone considered the impact this will have on the white footed deer mice?

  46. hene hene February 25, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Que Putas?

  47. Jason Macosa February 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Wow, this is potentially great news not only for the U.S. but more importantly for entire world. Let’s hope that congress and the next presisent approves funding!!!

  48. Josh February 25, 2008 at 11:26 am

    This would indeed be a leap forward for American renewable energy. In the UK we squeeze roughly 20 houses on an acre. So the 1900 acre are using only about half a building plot per house powered. That sounds like a very good ratio to me.

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