Arizona could become alternative energy hotspot

The newspaper states that renewable energy companies from Florida to Spain have their sights on Arizona, submitting applications for more than 80 solar and wind power plants across the state.

The companies have kept the vast majority of the plans confidential, preferring not to announce them publicly until the companies have a willing buyer for the power, which, according to The Arizona Republic, most do not yet have. However, it says records show that some of the biggest names in power-plant development are hoping to build in Arizona, including affiliates of French nuclear firm Areva, Spanish company Iberdrola Renewables, Tempe-based First Solar Inc. and Florida Power and Light Co.

The amount of power that all of the proposed plants would generate is far more than Arizonans can use, continues the newspaper, even if regulators increased the current state requirement that 15 percent of the energy used here comes from renewables by 2025. Most of the would-be Arizona plants would have to sell at least some, if not all, of their power to California, where there are far more people using many more electric appliances.

It says that if even a fraction of the proposed plants come to fruition, they could bring thousands of construction jobs, manufacturing potential and other economic benefits, including revenue for the Arizona State Land Department, which funds schools. But no more than a few of the plants will be able get their energy to customers without new high-voltage transmission lines.

"There are a whole lot more solar projects out there than transmission lines to get the power to Phoenix or Southern California," according to Kris Mayes, chairwoman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities. "We have a whole lot of solar power stranded in the desert."

Jim Kenna, BLM director in Arizona added: "Not all those will come to the fore quickly. Really only three or four in the next six to nine months will reach a point where we’ll do an environmental analysis and they will go out for public comment."

?Leasing land for wind and solar-power plants could bring significant revenue to the State Land Department, BLM and even private landowners holding the right parcels. The State Land Department manages more than 9.2 million acres in the state, about 12.7 percent of the total, and 90 percent of its revenues goes to a trust for schools. It has 20 applications for solar power plants and five more for wind farms, including one already built, the Dry Lake Wind Power Project, which was the first in the state.

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