Home Energy and Environment Revisiting Arizona’s Solar vs. Virginia’s Coal

Revisiting Arizona’s Solar vs. Virginia’s Coal


A few of years back, I did a post about two states making divergent energy choices – Arizona picking renewable power, Virginia picking coal. So how’s solar power working for Arizona?

About 850 construction workers have descended on Gila Bend to work on the plants this summer, and about double that number are expected next year as the largest alternative-energy project in the state, the Solana Generating Station [design at right], ramps up construction. […]

Abel Ortiz, 49, of Buckeye, had been out of work for months before landing a job as a laborer at the power plant. He said the pay assembling the solar-panel arrays was good. Normally, a labor job would pay about $8 an hour, but he’s making more than $10 an hour, he said. […]

The two small plants have a combined 34 megawatts of capacity, and Solana has 280, putting the economic benefit to Gila Bend north of $300 million from the current projects. “These projects have been taking a lot of folks that have been unemployed and putting them to work,” Geisler said.

Meanwhile, electricity prices in Virginia are up about 35 percent since 2005. Electric rates in Arizona have increased somewhat, but there’s one major difference: While Arizona has incentivized efficiency, the Virginia General Assembly still tells Dominion Virginia Power to make more profit by selling you more juice. So while Arizona Public Service Co. will be trying to cut its customers’ electricity use 22 percent by 2020, Dominion Virginia Power expects demand to increase 30 percent by 2026. That means lower electricity bills in Arizona and higher electricity bills in Virginia.

  • floodguy

    AZ electricity per kWh cost 8% more than in VA on average.  DVP also had already introduced one of the nations’ most aggressive EEC plans a few years ago…$600M worth of investments over 4 years.  Electricity portfolio vary by state due to demand/industry, not just in-state but for regional/multi-state reasons.  Unfortunately, the mid-Atlantic & central Appalachian states, in addition to eastern Canada, MUST support the Northeast’s power demand, not only because of their size and increasing demand, but because they refuse to build new power plants, while passing new laws which make it economically impossible to operate their older power-plants.  These older plants are being shut down causing mandates for new power plants in neigbhoring regions with transmission lines being sited wherever possible.  Since FERC requires double redundancy on renewable (ie 100MW of renewable requires 100MW fossil-fuel backup), and combined with it’s own vigorous growth, for Virginia, reliable and affordable electricity has to come from somewhere.  Next post, you should calculate the economic cost of blackout onto a state and local economies.  

  • floodguy

    …its the only location for the entire east coast.  The problem is, its electricity will cost many times more than regional averages and maintenance costs may well be crippling.  The industry needs a few pilots under its belt to lead the way, especially this far south.  (Think Bluewater in Delaware was shelved, while 2 Danish offshore farms are floundering and a 3rd was halted by the gov’t.)  To reduce the price per kWh planners are envisioning multiple renewable sources overlapping the same territory while sharing the transmission.  Subsurface tidal & geothermal turbines and surface wave generators could be included if technology increases efficiencies & capacity, while decreasing price.  This will not only reduce the price per kWh and use the same transmission, but it would make it more reliable (ie more constant), thus likely requiring less fossil-fuel backup.  Also the merchant industry, navy and avian lobbiests will all have to be appeased, so outside of a small 100-300MW offshore farm, we are some 15-20 years away.  

    Ppl need to realize, profit margins for utilities are set by the state.  If the state approves the plan, companies like DVP will be 1st in line.  The hurdle is the price, which users are mandated to pay.  Therefore, the price per kWh must be market-sustaining or at least in arms-reach, as no state will allow excessively priced power green or other at such a volume, as it would threaten to strain local economies, small businesses and residentials users on fixed or low incomes.  Keep in mind, renewable must be 100% backed up by a reliable (ie fossil-fuel) source, that this is included in the overall price per kWh.

    Virginia’s true problem, like OH, WV, PA, is the fact that the NE, because of their “green” policy making, is forcing them to adhere to FERC & RTO mandates to supply that region with power.  If VA or the other states adhered the same, the challenge become for them as to where, how much, and how far would the state have to import its electricity from?  Hence, this subject has merely become a political football game.  Geographically, the mid-Atlantic (VA included) has no other viable renwable options.  Imho, RPS and all generation policy-making, like transmission, should be at the RTO / regional level and not at the state.