KINGMAN - Recent incentives by Congress have caused a flood of interest in and a scurry to build solar plants, especially in Mohave County.
Last year, Congress continued an incentive program that grants companies a 30-percent federal tax credit for building a solar or alternative energy plant.
Congress modified that incentive for 2009/2010 as part of the stimulus package that was passed earlier this year. The stimulus package modification turns the tax credit into a one-time 30-percent grant to businesses that start building solar plants in 2009 and finish before 2016.
In the last year, the county has seen a spike in the number of zoning and General Plan amendments for solar plants. There are currently four zoning requests and one completed solar plant in the county.
The most frequently stated reason for building a solar plant in the county is the generous amount of sun, cheap land and the rural nature of the county.
The Hualapai Tribe was the first to build a solar plant in the county. It owns a 2-megawatt solar plant on its land that helps supply the community with power. The tribe was able to build the plant with a grant from the federal government.
Developer Leonard Mardian is also working on a 100-megawatt photovoltaic plant for his Ranch at White Hills development near Dolan Springs. The plant will use solar panels to provide electricity to the community.
There are also two smaller photovoltaic plants proposed for the Yucca and the Hackberry areas.
The Yucca plant is proposed by Havasu Solar Electric and would include a 1-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm on nearly 46 acres of land east of Interstate 40 and north of Boriana Mine Road near Yucca. The solar panels for the farm would stretch across 17.7 acres of the property.
The new Hackberry Road facility will only be a few miles from the proposed 200-megawatt Albiasa plant. It is expected to generate around 1.5 megawatts.
Two large concentrated solar plants are slated to be built to the north and south of Kingman. Concentrated solar plants use large, curved mirrors to focus the sun's light on a tube of oil that runs down the center of the mirrors. The oil is heated and then transferred to a central plant where it heats water and generates steam to turn a turbine and generate energy.
The first is a 200-megawatt plant proposed by Albiasa Solar located near the Silverado master-planned community off of U.S. 93. According to Albiasa, the plant will generate 2,000 jobs during its three-to-four year construction phase and 100 permanent jobs once it is complete. The company is hoping to start construction in the first half of 2010 and complete it by 2013. It will cost $1 billion to build and will spread across 1,400 acres. Electricity generated by the plant would serve approximately 60,000 homes.
Hualapai Valley Solar, a subsidiary of Mohave Sun Power, proposed a second 340-megawatt concentrated solar plant in the Red Lake area recently. The project is expected to cost more than $2.1 billion and will create up to 1,500 jobs during its 2.5-to-3-year construction period. It will offer more than 100 full-time jobs after the plant is completed. The company expects to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2010 and complete the project in the second half of 2013.
The concentrated solar projects are creating the most controversy because of their use of groundwater to cool and run the turbines.
The Hualapai Valley Solar plant is expected to use between 1,500 to 3,000 acre-feet of water per year to wash the mirrors and generate steam. Hualapai Valley Solar is already in negotiations to use reclaimed water from the city of Kingman's wastewater treatment plant in order to cut down on the amount of water pumped from the ground.
Albiasa's plant is projected to use between 1,500 to 4,000 acre-feet of water per year. The company said it plans to recycle the water it uses.
All of the projects, except for the Hualapai Tribe's, are still working through the federal, state and county permitting processes. Hualapai Valley Solar expects it to take more than 18 months to get all of the permits for its plant.
Many of the projects have not yet gained approval from the county.