Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Solar land rush under way in the Southwest

Spanish solar energy company Abengoa paid Arizona farmers $45 million for 1,920 acres that had an assessed value of only few hundred thousand dollars, to build the 280-megawatt Solana Generating Station power plant [right, artists conception of a Solana solar trough. credit, Abengoa] near Gila Bend, according to a story in the July 21 issue of Fortune magazine. The company may be looking to buy more land but said it is worried about the rush of land speculators flooding the region.

The magazine describes parcels in California that sold for $500 an acre a decade ago, going for $10,000 today. Abengoa is reported as buying a 3,000 acre California block for $30 million.

Environmentalists are raising alarms over the potential impacts of large solar arrays on the desert tortoise or Mohave ground squirrel, among other concerns. The Fortune story describes investors ranging from new solar start-ups to giant corporations including Goldman Sachs, putting claims on enough federal lands to theoretically generate 60 gigawatts of electricity in California, or nearly twice the 33 gigawatts that entire state currently uses in a year.

Update (7-24-08, 10 am): After posting this, my colleague and former grad-student office-mate Frank Horowitz, who blogs from Down Under (at "franks blog") noted that a watt is power but energy is power delivered for a given time period (eg, kilowatt-hours). So, saying California uses 33 gigawatts in a year is meaningless. I'll re-read the Fortune article to see if I misquoted them or simply passed along a common mistake confusing power and energy.

No comments:

Post a Comment