Solar Farm Planned to Reinvigorate Tiny Gila Bend, Arizona

Gila Bend: 1700 friendly people and, coming soon, a huge solar farm...
Gila Bend: 1700 friendly people and, coming soon, a huge solar farm...

Gila Bend, Arizona, once a quaint town of about 10,000 people, lost its appeal after an Air Force auxiliary field caused the land and nearby reservoir to fall victim to toxic pesticides.

Fortunately, the meager population that remains will soon see an influx of jobs and revenue—all thanks to plenty of sunshine and a new citywide dedication to solar power.

In order to take advantage of the 300+ days of sunshine each year, the town’s planning and economic development committee have decided to give the Abengoa Solar Project, one of the biggest solar plants in the country, the go-ahead to set up shop.

SOLON Corporation will also be building an 18-megawatt photovoltaic solar panel farm that will be used by Arizona Public Service. All in all, they expect to create enough energy to power a whopping 626,000 homes.

In addition to having the natural resources necessary to make such an undertaking possible, Gila Bend has also been known for its quick project approval process. In fact, the SOLON project was approved in an impressive three months—a good indication that this once small town will soon be booming with business.

Kayla Albert is CalFinder’s go-getter who is always on the cutting edge of new trends in any arena, from green remodeling to residential solar power. Find information about solar panel manufacturers and solar installers on CalFinder.

You don’t have to wait for your town to build a huge solar installation… start using renewable energy at home now with solar panels, solar heating, or a vertical axis wind turbine.

Photo Credit: J Horsefjord via Flickr CC

  1. Bobby

    Could this be yet another example of greenwashing, or has the state of mathematics in this country reached such a low that no one feels comfortable challenging the fantastic claims being purported by alternative energy marketers?

    The Department of Energy states that the average American home uses 920kWh/month of electricity. If you multiply that by 12months/year, you get 11,040kWh/year. Multiply that by the 626,000 homes that the story claims this facility can service, and you get 6,911,040,000kWh/year total demand for electricity.

    A utility’s capacity is stated in terms of its peak or maximum output. For solar power, that number is based upon the output it can achieve on the brightest possible day with the cleanest possible solar cells performing at their highest possible output. It also assumes no losses during the transmission and tranforming processes needed to get the electricity from the utility to the end user. To come up with an annual output to compare with the above annual demand, we first need to convert 18MW to kilowatts by multiplying by 1,000. That yields 18,000kW peak capacity. The piece above states that the town enjoys 300+ days of sunshine each year. One resident in a companion piece says that it is sunny all but 10 to 15 days per year. So, let us shoot high and assume 350 sunny days per year. Let us also assume that this town is geographically located such that it enjoys full sun for 12 hours on each of those sunny days. So, if we multiply 18,000kW by 350days/year by 12hours/day, we get a total output of 75,600,000kWh/year.

    Annual Demand (6,911,040,000kWh/year) less Annual Output (75,600,000kWh/year) yields a shortfall of 6,835,440,000kWh/year for those 626,000 homes being service by this project. That electricity will have to be generated by other means to keep those customers’ homes electrified. On a positive note, if you divide Annual Output (75,600,000kWh/year) by Average Annual Household Usage (11,040kWh/year), you find that this facility can easily service 6,848 homes. That is four times more than the town’s number of residents, which means that there will be a small surplus to add to the grid.

    I gladly invite one and all to check my math. I am a bit rusty.

  2. glen

    Thanks for your input Bobby, I hate math it hurts my head. That’s why they made spread sheets. 18MW system is big. When talking about residential solar ie: a 10kW system makes 10kw per hour of sunshine. So 18MW per hour using tracking 8 to 10 hrs a day. Your year of 350 days… 18*10*350 is 63000MW per year. 1.1MW per home =57272 homes.
    I think we all have seen people do weird things with numbers and with keyboards and fat fingers.
    when life gives you lemons… hey free lemons. When life gives you melons… you might have Dyslexia. Cheers

  3. glen

    Found the article they’ve miss quoted. Eric Fitzer, the town’s planning and economic development director. Has projects proposed on his desk that would total 1.1Gw that those numbers came from. Try the math on that.

  4. Mary

    As a full time resident of Arizona I can’t believe Solar or wind power isn’t mandatory! If it doesn’t cover the Whole power need it sure as heck would cover my little 385 sq ft Park Model. Every October the influx of Snowbirds raises the power bar. Solar and or wind turbines are a step toward those requirements. The retired need to get past the initial installations costs and look toward the bigger picture.

  5. tim

    I’m not a blogger and don’t normally respond to these but, I felt compelled to do so after reading the above comments.
    Firstly, your math is correct.
    Secondly, yes there is a lot of hype in this market.
    Thirdly, I don’t think they mean to TOTALLY power those 626,000 homes. This is why they use the term power……which really doesn’t indicate an amount.
    That said, even if they hadn’t meant TOTALLY powering the 626,00 homes…….it would mean their supply to them would have to be small (120 watts).

    I have an 8.3 (8300 watt) system in Phoenix and I generated about 15,000 watts the first year. I bought an additional 15,000 watts from the utility company. I used most of what I generated and sold back the excess. I lowered my average electric bill from $235 a month to $47. So, solar is worth it but, you have to do it right.

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