Tapping the western sun

In an effort to tap the significant solar energy resources of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Texas, and Colorado, the U.S. DOE will support efforts to install a total of 1,000 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) systems over the next five years.

"This initiative will provide a substantial engine for economic development, job creation, air quality improvements and new, nonpolluting sources of electricity supply for the region," explained Acting Under Secretary of Energy David Garman. "The federal long-term goal is to lower the cost of CSP technology to 7 cents/kWh from the current cost of 12 to 14 cents/kWh."

Through a five-year cooperative, cost-shared agreement first proposed by the Western Governor’s Association (WGA), the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will subsidize the effort to the tune of $90,000 during its first year and also provide expertise and technical information on CSP systems over the five-year span of the agreement.

The estimated cost of the five-year project is $1,860,000, including the DOE’s one-time $90,000 contribution. The WGA and involved states will share $62,000 of the project’s first-year cost. It is anticipated that the WGA will provide additional subsidies during the project’s remaining years.

During the project’s first year, activities will include establishment of a stakeholder group, development of a process through which stakeholders in the region can achieve the 1,000-MW goal, and possibly formation of a utility consortium. This agreement supports ongoing state projects that include a 1-MW trough plant being built in Arizona, a 50-MW trough plant in Nevada scheduled to be completed this year, the formation of a task force in New Mexico to determine the most appropriate CSP technology for the state, and the creation of a task force to develop a multi-technology solar strategy for the State of California.

The agreement grew out of a resolution passed by the WGA during its annual meeting in June 2004. The resolution calls for the development of 30 GW of renewable energy and energy-efficiency improvements in western states by 2015, with 1 GW to be supplied by concentrating solar power. This project dovetails with the mission of the WGA: to develop policy and implement programs in the areas of energy, natural resources, the environment, human services, and economic development.