Solana A Giant Step towards Sustainable Energy in Arizona

Unless you are a brand new arrival to the state of Arizona, you have probably heard about the Solana solar energy project being built west of Gila Bend and slated for power production in early 2013. That all sounds great, but what exactly is Solana and what does it mean for Arizona?

In an effort to provide clean, renewable and sustainable electricity to a growing Arizona, APS called on Abengoa Solar (a division of Spain-based Abengoa) and their plan for Solana because of its vast experience developing renewable energy projects around the world, including large scale solar projects in California, Colorado, and Texas.

Solana will be a 280-megawatt (MW) concentrating solar power plant with thermal energy storage that will generate enough electricity to service 70,000 homes. If the plant were built today, it would be considered the largest concentrating solar plant in the world, covering nearly three square miles.

Located on land currently used for agriculture about 14 miles west of Gila Bend, the solar plant will rise near the intersection of Painted Rocks Road and Interstate 8. This site was chosen, in part, because of its excellent incoming solar radiation values. It will generate electricity via Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) with thermal energy storage. CSP uses heat from the sun to generate electricity. The plant’s parabolic mirrors focus the sun’s heat on a heat transfer fluid that can reach temperatures exceeding 700 degrees (F). To produce electricity, the hot fluid creates steam that spins conventional steam turbines. The hot fluid also flows into molten salt storage tanks which retain the heat for use on cloudy days or for several hours after dark.

The new solar plant will help APS in their goal of obtaining at least 15 percent of their total electricity sold from renewable energy sources by 2025. And while that is certainly great news for the state of Arizona, Solana also represents a significant step forward in our state’s efforts to develop clean, renewable, and thoroughly sustainable energy now and in the foreseeable future.

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