Focus on Sustainability: Solar Power Plant

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The Interior Department announced approval for three new solar power plants, one in Arizona and two in Nevada. Dennis Godfrey of the Arizona office of The Bureau of Land Management will talk about the Arizona solar power plant, to be located near Quartzite. The Quartzite Solar Energy Project will be capable of generating 100 megawatts of electricity.

Ted Simons: The quartzite solar energy project was one of three major renewable energy plans announced yesterday by the U.S. interior department. Here to tell us more about the quartzite project is Dennis Godfrey. He's from the Arizona office of the bureau of land management. Good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
Dennis Godfrey: My pleasure.
Ted Simons: Three projects, two in Nevada, one in Arizona. Near quartzite --
Dennis Godfrey: About 10 miles north of quartzite along the road that heads north. You will be able to see the project from the road in a few years.
Ted Simons: What is out there now?
Dennis Godfrey: Very little. Desert land. There is differences in what is little and what isn't. Difference of opinion on that. Basically flat, desert land.
Ted Simons: How much power are we talking about regarding the plant?
Dennis Godfrey: This is a 100 megawatt project.
Ted Simons: Translates to how many homes?
Dennis Godfrey: Roughly 30,000.
Ted Simons: Who builds the plants -- who will build the plant once it is getting going here?
Dennis Godfrey: Solar reserve, out of Santa Monica, California, applied to the bureau of land management for the use of the land and they are the owner of the technology and will be building the project.
Ted Simons: And so, the Santa Monica -- it is their baby then, in other words. Who will they be selling the electricity to?
Dennis Godfrey: That is up to them. That is something that the bureau of land management does not get involved with. We make the land available and they will work out the deal and to my knowledge, they do not have a buyer at this time.
Ted Simons: So, does that mean ground doesn't break until they get the buyer?
Dennis Godfrey: Most likely. Expensive propositions and they would probably need certainty that they are going to be able to sell the power.
Ted Simons: You are not in that particular business, per se. Is there any indication how long that may take, what kind of delay we would see here?
Dennis Godfrey: Another project on bureau of land management land near Buckeye. Approved for a year and a half and they still do not have a power purchase agreement. It varies. I really can't say.
Ted Simons: As far as the technology is concerned, can you tell us about that, power cell -- power tile --
Dennis Godfrey: Yes, this is an interesting technology that solar reserve has. They build an array or a large array of mirrors, heliostats they call them that track the sun during the day. They will focus the sun's energy or heat on a spot on a tower at the top of the tower, about 650 feet tall. This is a -- it will be a large tower. You will be able to see this from the road. You will see the glow as the mirrors are focused on it. And that -- that power, that is actually heat used to heat molten salt and turn it into a liquid. That liquid is stored and used to generate steam which turns a standard steam turbine to generate electricity.
Ted Simons: My goodness. This technology is already in use around the world.
Dennis Godfrey: It has been used. I wouldn't say it has extensive use. There is a tower in Spain that is working. There is a demonstration and research project in the 90's in California that solar reserve has learned a lot from. And solar reserve has other projects under construction. One in Nevada right now that they hope to complete this year.
Ted Simons: How much water is needed for something like this?
Dennis Godfrey: Under a conventional -- using a conventional steam turbine, you would expect that it would use quite a bit of water. But solar reserve and the bureau of land management concluded early on that the best use of this resource would be to be -- to use a dry tool technology. Meaning they use very, very little water.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Dennis Godfrey: Compared -- they will use about 200 acre feet a year. If they were to use a combination of hybrid and dry, that would be about three times more than that at 600. If they were to do wet cooling, which is the most efficient and the least expensive, it would be up to about 1,500 acre feet a year. So, this is a fraction of the amount of water that would be needed and we feel that is the responsible way to respond to the needs of the desert.
Ted Simons: How are these particular lands -- we will talk about the ones in Nevada. Outside of quartzite, how is that land chosen? What input was involved?
Dennis Simons: The company went looking for a site, and they measured and did scientific research and considered what the natural resource conflicts might be, and said this looks like a good spot and made application for it. They're the ones that applied. And made a decision that this is where we want to put this project.
Ted Simons: As far as public input for that particular piece of land, how much goes into something like that?
Dennis Godfrey: The bureau of land management, any time that federal lands involved, looking for all of the public input we can get. We held scoping meetings where we encourage the public to respond to tell us what is out there that we need to be looking at. We feel like we've had a very successful scoping and research project for the public.
Ted Simons: Environmental review. What kind of --
Dennis Godfrey: It is a long term process. Federal government is involved. We want environmental impact statement. This has been in the process for pretty close to three years now where we have been studying what is there. What are the concerns for the -- for the cultural conflicts, what are the resource conflicts. What are they -- what are the wildlife conflicts? And we have concluded that we are in pretty good position on this project.
Ted Simons: Indeed, it sounds as though this particular project was on the fast track and may still be on the fast track for approval. Is that accurate?
Dennis Godfrey: Has now been approved, yes. It has been -- in the past year.
Ted Simons: Why was it on the fast track?
Dennis Godfrey: Because it had progressed to the point where it was ready to move forward. We needed to -- the previous work had been done. We were satisfied with. The secretary of the interior said let's finish the work on this.
Ted Simons: And you have -- it sounds like some 15 odd more sites being looked at by the BLM overall? Does that sound accurate?
Dennis Godfrey: That is about right. We have several in Arizona as well. A few in Arizona that are progressing and moving along.
Ted Simons: Basically I know the utility scale project in the right way and right places --
Dennis Godfrey: Absolutely right. Absolutely right.
Ted Simons: Alright. Hopefully we will get this thing up and operational here relatively soon, as soon as they can find electricity to sell to. Good to have you here.
Dennis Godfrey: Thank you very much. Enjoyed it.

Dennis Godfrey:Arizona office of The Bureau of Land Management;

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