How Can Arizona Become a Solar Power Exporter if It Opposes Building Interstate Power Lines?

Michael Giberson

AZCSP.gifSo, I’ve been thinking more about Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano’s goal of turning the state into “the Persian Gulf of solar energy.” Last week I concluded that devoting about 236 square miles of Arizona desert to solar generators — like the recently announced state-of-the-art Solana Generating Station — would be enough to make the state self-sufficient (intermittency issues aside). A “Persian Gulf of solar energy” would not just be self-sufficient, it would be a big exporter.

Okay, hold that thought while we discuss the latest developments for the proposed “Devers-Palo Verde No. 2” transmission project.

Last June, the Arizona Corporation Commission denied Southern California Edison (SCE) permission to construct a 230-mile long line between Palm Springs, California and Palo Verde, Arizona, a little Southwest of Phoenix. At the time Arizona commissioners were saying things like they didn’t “want to be an energy farm for California” and that they wouldn’t approve an action that would raise prices for Arizona consumers. (I blogged it as Arizona Commission’s Negative Power Line, with this brief follow-up.)

Recently, representatives of SCE met with federal regulators to discuss the line and, by the way, the possibility that FERC might be able to overrule Arizona’s utility commission if it continues to oppose the project. Tracy Davis, at Energy Legal Blog, observes it would be the first time FERC acted on its new legal authority to approve interstate electric transmission projects. Arizona’s utility commissioners continue to express opposition to SCE’s project, one commissioner telling a newspaper that this isn’t a situation that FERC should get involved in.

I began to wonder: If they built all that solar power, became a solar Persian Gulf and all that, won’t they have to build some power lines into other states to sell that power.

Isn’t Governor Napolitano’s grand solar dream more or less a goal of becoming what one Arizona Corporation Commissioner derisively referred to as “an energy farm for California” and other states?

It appears to be a conflict of visions among the political leadership in Arizona. In this case the Governor has the better position. Perhaps she is a little over enthusiastic for a technology that still requires federal tax credits and state policy assistance to survive, but at least she is cosmopolitan and future-oriented. In this case, at least, the majority of the state’s utility commissioners come off as short-sighted and small-minded.

(In a related development today the U.S. Department of Energy reaffirmed its designation of two NIETC regions, one in the Northeast-Mid-Atlantic area and the other covering parts of Southern California and three counties in Arizona. In a press release, DOE “dismissed as being without merit challenges raised by the applicants for rehearing.”)


One thought on “How Can Arizona Become a Solar Power Exporter if It Opposes Building Interstate Power Lines?

  1. How can Arizona become a solar power exporter if it opposes …

    [Source: Knowledge Problem] quoted: Isn’t Governor Napolitano’s grand solar dream more or less a goal of becoming what one Arizona Corporation Commissioner derisively referred to as “an energy farm for California” and other states?

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