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GILA BEND, AZ-Abengoa Solar has selected a three square mile patch of land, totaling 2,000 acres, to develop its first solar power plant in the nation. The company, which has developed plants abroad, is working with Arizona Public Service Co. to build, own and operate the 280-megawatt plant.

The Solana Generating Station, which will be built at an estimated cost of $4,000 per megawatt, could generate up to $4 billion in revenue over a 30-year period in electricity sales to Arizona Public Service. It’s also projected to bring more than $1 billion of economic benefits to the state. The plant will be built about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix at the junction of Interstate 8 and Painted Rock Dam Road and generate enough power for 70,000 homes.

According to a press release, an estimated 1,500 construction workers will build the plant, with 85 permanent employees needed to operate it. Kate Maracas, vice president of Denver-based Abengoa’s Arizona operations, says construction will begin in second quarter 2009, allowing the plant to come on line in 2011.

Maracas tells GlobeSt.com that Gila Bend made sense for Abengoa Solar’s first US plant because of its proximity to rail, highway and water resources. “It’s currently an agricultural property, with sufficient water to cool the power plant,” she explains. “It’s also in a location where we’re not disturbing anything environmentally.” The plant will employ a proprietary Concentrating Solar Power trough technology developed by Abengoa Solar.

Maracas says Abengoa Solar is searching for more sites in the sunny Southwest to develop more plants. However, finding the land to support future solar generating plants is somewhat of a challenge because the property needs to have adequate infrastructure, cooling and space. “There is an infinite amount of solar resources, but the land that can support this isn’t quite as enormous,” Maracas says. She adds, however, that Arizona is an ideal spot because there are many parts of the state that offer what Abengoa needs.

Maracas points out that power companies are starting to turn away from coal-fired resources when it comes to producing electricity and are moving toward a cleaner and more stable source of energy. Abengoa Solar operates the world’s first commercial concentrating solar power plant in Spain and is building three more plants in that country. Spain is also home to a demonstration trough plant and the world’s first commercial photovoltaic low concentration plant. The company also plans to build plants in Algeria and Morocco.

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