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The announcement by Chinese firm Suntech to locate its U.S. manufacturing site here in Arizona is the latest in a long series of important steps taken by business and political leaders to reap the many benefits of solar energy.
Currently Arizona Public Service and Abengoa Solar are building Solana - a 280-megawatt solar power plant near Gila Bend, which is estimated to create $1 billion of new investment in the state. Solana represents economic revitalization and new jobs. This is a tremendous opportunity for Arizona to be more competitive in the global economy by bringing clean, reliable solar energy to thousands of Arizonans.
Solar is thriving in 2010, due in large part to policies at the state and federal level. The Arizona Corporation Commission's Renewable Energy Standard, federal solar investment tax credits, pro-solar stimulus bill provisions, the Bureau of Land Management's efforts to streamline solar development and state tax credits for solar manufacturing all have the industry poised for robust growth, both in Arizona and across the country. Navigant Consulting Inc. estimates that the solar energy industry will create 10,000 jobs in Arizona, as well as 440,000 jobs and $325 billion in private investments nationwide by 2016.
With more than 200 companies doing business in solar, Arizona already has sufficient infrastructure to pump solar dollars into the state's economy, much of it coming from utility-scale solar development.
We are already seeing this happen. APS plans to invest $500 million over the next four years to develop utility-scale solar plants, resulting in 100 more megawatts of solar energy for its customers.
Development of utility-scale solar plants can be done in a manner that does not jeopardize sensitive wildlife or habitat. There is no false choice between responsibly developing utility-scale solar plants and protecting Arizona's lands and diverse wildlife.
Political and business leaders agree that the future is bright for solar energy in Arizona.
Recognizing the triple-threat of global warming, foreign energy dependence and a lagging economy, the House of Representatives has passed an energy and climate bill. Similar legislation will be considered in the Senate in 2010. We urge Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl to support strong energy and climate legislation. Utility-scale solar is a critical piece in combating climate change.
Environment America and the Solar Energy Industries Association have been fighting for a robust climate and energy bill because of what it could mean, not only for Arizona's economy and environment, but for our country and world. It is important that we continue to move toward a future that provides good jobs and clean energy, while protecting America's wildlife and habitat. With utility-scale solar power, we can do all three.
Rhone Resch is the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Bret Fanshaw is the Program Advocate with Environment Arizona.