SAN LUIS, Ariz. – A Maryland company has found a new site here for a green energy project it says will create electricity inside two towers standing more than 2,000 feet high.
Nearly two years after granting rezoning to permit the towers’ construction on federal land, the San Luis City Council this week approved a new development agreement with Solar Wind Energy Tower that relocates the project to privately owned land along County 24th Street between Avenues E and D.
San Luis Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said the change in location enables the company to avoid red tape and proceed with the project under a shorter timetable.
“Because it was federal land, several impact studies were being required for the prior site” before construction of the towers could begin, Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said. “Now it will be simpler for them, and we will see more benefits for the city.”
Solar Wind Energy Tower has a purchase agreement with owners for the new site, said Sanchez, and the company will need only secure a variance from the city to proceed with the project.
“This is a milestone for the project,” Ronald Pickett, president of the Annapolis, Md.-based firm, said as the council approved the development agreement. “In the last two years, the city has gotten a better understanding of the magnitude (of the project) and the opportunities it represents.”
Pickett said the towers will be built in stages, with the first one ready for operation in 2018.
Standing 2,250 feet in height, the towers would use water to cool hot, dry air, causing it to fall through the shafts in a powerful downdraft that would drive turbines that, in turn, would generate electricity for sale by the company.
A number of aspects of the project have changed since it was brought to the city in early 2012 by the company, then known as Clean Wind Energy.
The initial plan called for water to be piped from the Sea of Cortez to San Luis be used in the air cooling process. Under the new agreement with the city, San Luis will provide the water.
The height of each tower has also been reduced by 80 feet to 2,250 feet. Pickett said the reduction will enable the concrete to be used in place of steel in construction of the the walls of the towers, in turn reducing construction costs.
With the development agreement in hand, “we will be able to approach potential buyers of the electricity that is generated in the towers to finalize purchase agreements,” said Pickett.
Those agreements, in turn, will help Solar Wind Energy Tower in its efforts to secure financing for construction. He added that the Maryland company is seeking financing through the New York-based investor firm National Standard for the San Luis project as well as projects in Mexico and Chile.
The development agreement anticipates that the city will receive $2.9 million from Solar Wind Energy Tower in sale of water for the towers. The pact also makes several other requirements of the company.
One of them is that the project will create 2,000 temporary jobs in the construction phase, plus more than 500 for full-time workers at the towers.
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