Consultant: Plenty of water for Albiasa

Basin solar power plant would tap has billions of acre-feet available, USGS says

KINGMAN - An Albiasa consultant believes there is more than enough water for the company's proposed 200-megawatt solar power plant near the Silverado master planned community on U.S. 93.

That could be the hot topic when the County Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the County Administration Building, 700 W. Beale St.

A four-page letter from Beck Consulting Engineers, a consultant for Albiasa, is included in the meeting packet.

"Our experts in hydrology believe that the Big Sandy aquifer is not currently being depleted," the letter states. The Big Sandy would be the main source of water for the plant.

Many Mohave County residents say the Big Sandy is currently in depletion and point to County Planning and Zoning ordinances that require dry cooling technology when depletion is occurring.

The letter from Beck Consulting Engineers states that dry and hybrid cooling technologies have not been tested on a commercial scale, are inefficient in Arizona's high air temperatures and cost three times as much as a wet cooled system.

The letter cites a 1986 U.S. Geological Study, the most complete water study available, which states that the aquifer holds approximately 10 billion acre-feet of water and is being replenished on an annual basis by 22,000 acre-feet of water.

"Since little groundwater development has occurred in the basin, we believe this number is still valid," the letter states. It also points to records showing an increase in water levels in four nearby wells monitored by the Arizona Department of Water Resources as proof that there is ample water in the area.

Residents say the water study is too old and does not take into account the amount taken by two mines in the area that also draw from the same aquifer.

The solar plant will use 104 acre-feet a year less than if the current Silverado Area Plan is completed, according to the letter.

Residents argue that the Silverado community would have been built at a slower rate than the solar plant and therefore would not have used as much water all at once.

County P&Z staff is recommending approval of the project on the conditions that Albiasa must provide proof that a "sufficient water supply exists in the underlying aquifer," the Arizona Corporation Commission and Line Sitting Commission give the plant a certificate of environmental compatibility, it acquires all necessary permits from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, a storm water pollution plan is submitted, the plant connects into a transmission line and the plant shows significant construction progress in the next five years.