Focus on Sustainability: Maricopa Solar Power Plant

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A hearing was held recently on a proposed 300-megawatt solar power plant in Maricopa. The Maricopa Solar Park Project would be built on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. BLM Arizona representative Dennis Godfrey will discuss the idea.

Ted Simons: Tonight's look at sustainability issues, focuses on a massive solar power plant is being planned for blm land near Maricopa. Here to tell us how much land will be needed and how much energy will be produced, it's Dennis Godfrey, of the bureau of land management's Arizona office. Good to see you and thanks for joining us.

Dennis Godfrey: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: Maricopa solar park, where will this be located?

Dennis Godfrey: This is, this is do west of the town of Maricopa. And about, I don't know, 10 to 12 miles west of there, on about 1700 acres. Of blM land, Federal land managed by the bureau of land management, and it would generate 300 megawatts of electricity when the sun was shining.

Ted Simons: Why this particular piece of land out there?

Dennis Godfrey: This is the, the proponent, the company that's interested in this site, looked at it and said, this looks like ideal, the ideal land for, for solar, for a solar plan, it's flat, it's relatively unvegetated, and coincidentally, it was a site that we had picked in a study, and the blm, that this yes, this appears to be a suitable site for renewable energy.

Ted Simons: In that study, was it close to transmission lines or to water? What was looked at?

Dennis Godfrey: That's exactly right, it was where the transmission lines are, where is the need for the power. And is it relatively close to that. And we do it without affecting water, are there low -- or limited or, or no natural resource conflicts, that means cultural or biological, are there animals there in danger, and we concluded that this appears to be an area that's, that's pretty suitable for solar energy.

Ted Simons: And yet more environmental impact studies are needed, correct?

Dennis Godfrey: Absolutely. We have done a first look at that, at that site, we have amended our land use plans that this, this is a suitable site for renewable energy, but, we still have to do a full environmental impact statement.

Ted Simons: What kind of timetable?

Dennis Godfrey: That generally take about two years. And we may get a break because of the earlier work. But, pretty much we're down the road a ways.

Ted Simons: So, you mentioned 300 megawatts of power?

Dennis Godfrey: Correct.

Ted Simons: What does that mean as far as households?

Dennis Godfrey: That's roughly, I have heard estimated 70,000 households.

Ted Simons: Oh, my goodness. That's huge.

Dennis Godfrey: That's very large. And when the sun is shining and it's generating electricity, of course.

Dennis Godfrey: Indeed, and this is now photo volaic?

Dennis Godfrey: Proposed as a photo voltaic site, which means when the sun shines it generates energy.

Ted Simons: It also means there needs to be cleaning of these things, which would necessitate water needs, what kind?

Dennis Godfrey: Pretty limited water needs. Yes, some cleaning, but they anticipate that that's once a year, and maybe twice a year, and probably the equivalent of about, about 15-acre feet or about 15 households per year.

Ted Simons: That's it, per year?

Dennis Godfrey: That's for a photo voltaic site, that's what they would need, for a large capacity plant.

Ted Simons: So, what would happen to the power that's generated? Would it be stored? Would it be sold here? Would it be sold elsewhere? What, what about that?

Dennis Godfrey: The nature of photo voltaic, it has to be used at the time it's generated. This company that is proposing this says, they are looking for a utility to buy it, they want someone to say, we need your power, and we will take it. That has not come to any conclusion. They don't have a contract. It's very preliminary. But, yes, this is intended to be a utility scale project. Serving a large area.

Ted Simons: So, no utility? It's speculative there?

Dennis Godfrey: I have not -- I know of none.

Ted Simons: Ok. All right. And this marisol energy from Italy?

Dennis Godfrey: they don't like to consider themselves as an Italian company, they consider the principles are, are Italian, but they consider themselves to be an international company. They have done work in south Africa, and other places, and, but, to my knowledge, this is their first experience in North America.

Ted Simons: The work in south Africa and other places successful? Any problems?

Dennis Godfrey: Not that I know of. They tell us that, that, that south Africa has a similar kind of environmental setup as the United States, and that they were able to navigate that, and have a working plan.

Ted Simons: When we talk about solar activity on blm land in Arizona, what else is going on and how far along in the process is it? Is this the only project?

Dennis Godfrey: We have applications in Arizona for about 20 solar plants. We have one that, that we have, basically, said, approved, and sonoran solar near south of Buckeye, and the company that is, that is proposed to build that is holding off waiting to sell the energy. I have not started work on it, and we have a couple of other plants, one near courtside, and that are nearing completion of the environmental impact process. And we have about 15 to 17 more that are on applications and the companies have not chosen to pursue them aggressively at this point.

Ted Simons: So the application are in or the applicants are there, but it's a matter of getting it done?

Dennis Godfrey: Of them choosing this is a time and place to do it.

Ted Simons: And that's solar power, what about wind power?

Dennis Godfrey: We have -- our wind in Arizona is primarily in the northern part of the state. And we have a, a working plant to, dry lakes on, partially on blm land in the northeast northeastern part of the state, and we have a site near are Kingman, that is moving towards environmental impact statement being completed, a large wind powered plant. And we would expect to see some, some decision on that from the bureau of land management this year.

Ted Simons: So, back to the Maricopa solar park, what do we look for here now in the months and years?

Dennis Godfrey: well, not much is going to happen for a few months. We have had a lot of interest. People wanting, looking for jobs and so on, and it's just premature for that. And but, we would anticipate about mid year, that we would begin our process. And that, that, that gives the public a chance to speak out and say these are the things that you ought to consider about this site. And these are things that may not know about. And you should know about them, so we will welcome and encourage that, and we'll have public meetings and a comment period, and then we'll kind of retreat and, and prepare a draft environmental impact statement.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Dennis Godfrey: My pleasure.

Dennis Godfrey:BLM Arizona;

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