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12:31 AM Fri, Nov. 16th

CV eyes solar manufacturing plants, not farms

Solar power may come to Chino Valley, only in a different form than most people think.

Charlie Arnold, Chino Valley Area Chamber of Commerce president, doesn't see big solar power farms sprouting in the Chino Valley area. However, he told the Chino Valley Mayor's Economic Development Committee that he believes the town can attract the solar industry's manufacturing segment.

He just returned from the Solar Power International Conference and Expo in Anaheim, Calif. Arnold helped man APS's Arizona booth. APS was one of 1,000 exhibitors that featured 30,000 people from 90 countries at the conference.

"The solar industry is changing every day. They even have lunar solar panels," he said.

Arnold said all the developers of solar power farms he talked to said they need capital up front to develop one. With the town not having any money to offer a developer, it's not going to happen unless it's one a firm is building for APS, he said.

Why is solar energy a viable industry in Chino Valley? Arnold said U.S. Department of Energy maps show the quad-communities area is located in the middle of one of the highest efficiency levels in the United States.

However solar farms, which are successful in Switzerland and Europe, aren't feasible in Arizona. Arnold said in Arizona it costs more to build and operate a solar farm than energy from conventional power plants.

Steven Gotfried, APS's renewable energy spokesman, said not only is solar energy more expensive than electricity from conventional plants, solar energy is not as reliable because none is being made when the sun isn't out.

He said APS is building four 25-megawatt photovoltaic solar power plants in 2010. According to the Department of Energy website, this system uses solar cells to convert solar energy directly into electricity.

Gotfried said APS also is going to start construction on a 280-megawatt solar concentration plant next year. The DOE website says these plants concentrate the solar energy six to 10-fold.

What makes sense for Chino Valley, Arnold said, is a solar plant at the wastewater treatment or solar on homes because it's for a specific use. Also, the homeowner gets 66 2/3 percent of his cost to put solar on his home back from the federal government, State of Arizona and APS.

Arnold said Bright Star now has a contractor who is building homes that have extra wiring and heavier trusses so they are solar-ready. This costs an additional $300 per home, he said.

He said it costs them about $3,500 to add solar to a new home.

Arnold said Chino Valley has two pluses going for it - its enterprise zone, and being in the middle of one of the highest solar efficiency levels in the U.S.

He said M&I Window and Door in Prescott Valley is already manufacturing frames for solar panels.

In other business, the committee:

• Tabled Town Manager Jerry Stricklin's slideshow on how the Town of Wickenburg developed a downtown area.

• Tabled the presentation of photos from committee members on branding and the use of branding in the development of a proposed downtown for Chino Valley.

In future meetings, the committee will look at what finances are available to the town to aid economic development, and hear a presentation from Ab Jackson, chamber CEO, on the chamber's business retention, leakage and business development programs.