"Gila Bend has set a world record in utility scale solar plant construction….Right now, we can't build solar power faster anywhere in the world,” says First Solar Vice President Jim Woodruff.
According to US Dept. of Energy, two solar companies, First Solar's Paloma and Cotton Center have power plants under construction that should deliver enough power to the Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) power grid by 2012 to supply about 9,000 homes. Two other plants have filed applications with the town, "with the possibility of 10-15 more viable plants in the pipeline" which could make Gila Bend the solar power capital of the world. [right, Paloma and Cotton Center solar plants. Credit town of Gila Bend]
DOE attributes the towns success first to the establishment of a "Solar Field Overlay Zone" (SFOZ), which greatly reduced the complications for solar companies to develop the sun-soaked fields located within the town. Secondly, they say town officials expedite the speed at which solar companies’ construction plans can get approved. "Processes that usually take at least a year, and often several years, can now go through public hearings, citizen review sessions, planning and zoning commissions hearings, publication in a newspaper, and council approval in as little as four weeks."