KINGMAN - Albiasa Corporation, the American subsidiary of the Madrid-based Albiasa Solar renewable energy company, on Monday unveiled its plan to build a $1 billion, 200-megawatt solar power plant near Kingman over the next three years.
Albiasa Corporation's operations director, Jesse Tippett, said the plant would be built on 1,400 acres somewhere to the south of Kingman in Mohave County, though he would not disclose the exact location. Tippett said the plant will begin construction in the first half of 2010 and would begin producing power by 2013, resulting in the creation of roughly 2,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent positions.
"The large firms that have experience constructing these kinds of power plants will source the majority of their labor from the surrounding area," Tippett said. Of the 100 permanent positions, he said Albiasa is "looking to train people locally for the various skill levels we need ... everything from the bottom all the way up."
Once the plant is fully operational, Tippett said it should produce at least 665,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually; enough to power roughly 60,000 homes. The plant will generate the power through a process called concentrating solar power, or CSP.
In layman's terms, CSP uses a parabolic trough of curved mirrors to refocus sunlight into a straight, concentrated beam. The beam of light is then used to heat oil in tubes placed directly in front of the mirrors. From there, the heated oil is pumped from the solar field to a turbine generator, where the heat is transferred to water to generate steam. The steam spins the turbines, creating electricity.
Tippett said the plant will draw its water from local groundwater sources, and should require only a fraction of what a similarly sized farm would use.
"If you have a cotton field and you're going to instead use that area for a solar project, you can count on using a quarter or less of what would be used for typical agricultural use," he said.
Tippett said Arizona was a natural choice for the solar plant, given the desert state's abundant sunlight. He added that the state's permitting processes were "more up to date" than some of its neighbors, allowing the project to proceed at a faster pace.
As to why Albiasa chose Kingman specifically, Tippett pointed to the city's close proximity to power transmission lines as a key factor in the decision.
"There's good transmission resources there, and it's a rural area, so it's an area that could certainly welcome a project there," he said. "Being a renewable project, it's already got a lot of support from the county level and the state."
That was made particularly clear in the minutes following Albiasa's announcement Monday, when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and gave her enthusiastic endorsement to the company's efforts.
"The arrival of Albiasa Corporation is yet another big step toward establishing Arizona as a leader in the sustainable industries sector, creating stable jobs that will help diversify our state's economy," Brewer said. "We are pleased to welcome Albiasa to Arizona, and commend the company for choosing our great state as the site for its solar plant."
At the local level, Mohave County District I Supervisor Gary Watson echoed Brewer's comments.
"This project will provide excellent jobs and substantial capital investment for our region of the state, and we anticipate Albiasa's presence will better enable us to attract additional renewable energy projects and allied operations," Watson said.
Kingman Mayor John Salem approached the news with cautious optimism, preferring instead to reserve his jubilation until more details - and a specific location - are announced.
"I'm always a little apprehensive about putting the cart before the horse. We need to get more information," he said. He did concede, however, that "it'd be wonderful, fantastic if something like that could happen here."