Saturday, February 28, 2015

Solar farm on mine lands is biggest in region - expect more to come

I had the pleasure of giving brief remarks at the formal ribbon cutting of the 35 megawatt Avalon Solar facility near Sahuarita on Friday [photo credit, TEP].    The plant will reach 56 MW later this year, making it the largest solar resource in Tucson Electric Power's territory.   The site is on 500 acres of Asarco disturbed lands but not lands used directly in mining. The Avalon solar project grew out of an EPA effort to develop renewable energy on lands already disturbed, including mined lands.   This could be the first on many such facilities.   Asarco officials expect that the Mission mine tailings piles will be ideal sites for new solar farms when those areas are closed.    

A number of people asked for copies of my remarks, so I'm posting them here:

I’m honored to be included in the ceremonies here today to launch the Avalon Solar facility.

It is so exciting to see this marriage of mining and solar energy.  

Renewable energy requires infrastructures built with metals and minerals.    We need sand and gravel, aggregate, limestone for cement, steel for the frame, silicon for the solar panels, and copper – lots of copper – for the motors, generators, transformers, and transmission lines, to turn the suns energy into electricity and move it where we need it.

Arizona was the #1 mining state in the US last year, with primary production exceeding $8 billion, coming from copper, molybdenum, sand and gravel, aggregate, and cement; all minerals needed to build solar power facilities. 

Apple Computer is building a $2 billion data center in Mesa that will be powered, like all of its data centers, entirely by renewable energy, and in the Arizona plant, entirely with solar energy.
Our modern society demand for base metals is increasing by 5% annually for use in cell phones, hybrid vehicles, and other technologies, including building solar and wind energy arrays such as built here.  

If this trend continues according to a study published in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals, metal production in next 15 years has to match the amount of metals produced since the dawn of civilization.*

Wise use of our natural resources – our mineral resources – is the crux of building an environmentally sustainable society. 

The marriage of mining and renewable energy is also symbolic as well as practical and environmentally beneficial.   There is a growing realization of the benefits of mining and generating our power locally.

In 2007 the word of the year was “locavore.”   A locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. The locavore movement in the United States and elsewhere was spawned as interest in sustainability and eco-consciousness has become more prevalent.

We are seeing a movement now to promote [and let me quote] “more metal production near centers of demand, similar to the locavore movement.   Green technologies should incorporate domestic mining, which reduces the financial and environmental costs of transporting metals from far flung sources and decreases the carbon footprint, while providing jobs and wealth to the local community.”*   The same holds true for energy production.   The Avalon Solar project is a prototype of what mining can contribute to sustainable energy, sustainable economy, and sustainable environment.

You here today are who I call the new environmentalists – you are leading the fight for a more sustainable world by efficiently providing the resources for our technological society, and by doing so, reducing global environmental impacts, and transitioning us to a renewable energy society.   A sustainable environment demands that we mine and produce our energy locally.  

Thank you for what you do for Arizona, the nation, for the economy, and for the environment.

*Reference:  Olivier Vidal, Bruno Goffé and Nicholas Arndt, "Metals for a low-carbon society," Nature Geoscience, v6, November 2013, pp. 894-896.

1 comment:

  1. As increasing pollution and global warming we must choose the renewable resources as they never cause any harm to our environment by producing clean energy from a renewable source. I believe solar is going to be the future for home owners and business owners.