By Nick Worth
Plans to build a solar power generation facility near Snowflake are on hold until customers can be found to purchase that power.
On Aug. 23, 2011, Aurora Solar, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, was granted a special use permit by the Navajo County Board of Supervisors for a photovoltaic solar power generation facility to be located on 399 acres approximately three miles north of Snowflake.
According to an Aug. 26, 2011 article, in The Tribune-News, plans called for the site to have enough solar panels to supply 50 megawatts of renewable energy.
The Aurora Solar facility was to provide approximately 200 jobs during the construction phase, which is expected to last six to nine months. Once the building of the facility is completed, one to two permanent em-ployees will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the solar grid.
The construction was originally expected to begin in October 2011 and to be completed by the end of 2012. Once finished, the project is expected to be operational for at least 25 years.
However, construction has not begun and is not expected to begin until some key conditions can be met, according to Paul Kopleman of Iberdrola Renewables, Aurora Solar’s parent company.
“The project is still one that’s in our development pipeline,” said Kopleman. “We believe it’s a good site for a solar project based on the work we have put into it.”
Kopelman said Aurora Solar has not yet been able to locate a buyer for the power, but is still actively searching for one.
“It’s important for us, when we’re developing any power project, to secure a customer,” Kopelman said. He noted that Iberdrola Renewables’ Dry Lake wind farms projects took the participation of “partners” in order to be built.
“Dry Lake was built in two stages and we had a customer, the same customer for each stage,” said Kopel-man. “In both cases, Salt River Project (SRP) was a willing partner.”
He said SRP gave Iberdrola Renewables what it needed to complete the project by signing on as a customer to purchase the generated power over the long term.
“It’s important to have long term customers lined up in order to build a project,” Kopelman said.
According to Navajo County Planning and Zoning Department Manager Trent Larson, there is no expiration date on the special use permit.
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By Nick Worth