Arizona has a pretty robust green economy, which is picking up momentum even in areas where it had previously lagged behind. The state is particularly strong in solar power, and is a major producer of solar panels, including crystalline and thin film. Arizona also features increasing growth in other renewable energy sectors, including in wind, biofuel and geothermal as well. It has at least eleven utility scale renewable energy power generation facilities including: 4 biomass, 4 solar PV, 2 solar CSP, and 2 wind. It also has three biofuels facilities, one ethanol and two biodiesel.
According to the Pew Center of The States Clean Economy Report on Arizona: In 2007 there were 1,123 green or cleantech businesses in the state and green sector employment stood at: 11,578. The number of green jobs in Alabama averaged a 21.3% growth rate for the decade (1998- 2007), which compares favorably with the overall average job growth of 16.2% for the same decade. In the biannual 2006-2008 Arizona had more than $31 million of venture capital invested in cleantech and renewable energy.
Solar Power Sector
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research report that the U.S. solar power market grew a record 67% last year, with its market share jumping from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion in 2010. Arizona has some of the world’s best solar resources and in fact the state was in fourth place for solar PV installation in 2010. The National Solar Jobs Census 2010 reported that Arizona is the in eights place nationwide for the number of solar jobs. The report estimates that there are 3,800 solar jobs in 230 solar firms currently active statewide.
Arizona is a major producer of solar panels, and the states favorable business climate and proximity to the major solar markets in California have attracted both domestic and foreign firms. FirstSolar (Nasdaq: FSLR), the world’s biggest manufacturer of photovoltaic modules is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. Forbes has ranked it as the fastest growing technology company in America; and with a three year average market cap of well over $10 billion and more than 6,000 employees it is also a very big and well established company. The company has announced that it will build its new U.S. manufacturing center in Mesa, Arizona; investing about $300 million and creating approximately 600 jobs.
Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), by some measures the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels has put its manufacturing facility in Goodyear, Arizona onto a three shift schedule adding 30 new jobs (with over 100 employed in the facility).
Eleven solar manufacturers have located to the Phoenix metropolitan area in the last year, partly driven by a renewable-energy tax break Arizona recently passed and the efforts of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), a public-private consortium. The plants will provide 6,300 jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs. Arizona also has has over 2.2 GW of solar PV and concentrated solar power (CSP) in the development pipeline, most of which is in the announced/planning stage.
In January 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $967 million loan guarantee for the what will be the world’s largest solar PV plant, the 290 MW Agua Caliente project, being constructed in Yuma County, Arizona. The Agua Caliente project will create approximately 400 jobs and produce a 290-megawatt photovoltaic solar generating facility, utilizing thin film panels from First Solar, Inc.
Wind Energy Sector
Though Arizona has lagged behind states such as Texas in exploiting its wind energy base there are signs that this is changing. Beginning with the 63MW capacity Dry Lake Wind Project Arizona has begun to exploit this renewable energy source. Iberdrola Renewables, the company that is developing the Dry Lake Wind Project plans to add an additional 209 turbines at the Navajo County site in subsequent phases.
In 2010, the wind industry supported 500-1,000 direct and indirect wind jobs in Arizona. Southwest Windpower, a wind turbine manufacturer established in 1987 and based in Flagstaff, Arizona specializes in small, reliable battery charging wind generators that complement solar energy for supplying energy to rural areas. At least 5 other manufacturing facilities in Arizona currently supply components for the wind industry.
Arizona’s sunny, dry hot weather, the same weather that gives it such a high solar power potential also makes it a good location for farming algae to produce renewable fuels. A 2009 study by the National Renewable Energy Lab rated Phoenix as the No. 1 potential place to produce algae biofuel in the United States. Along with adjacent areas in Southern California and the Gila bend has the best climate for high intensity algae production than any other place in America. Algae require lots of solar radiation, high temperatures and warm nights, and Arizona delivers. Companies such as XL Renewables, Diversified Energy, Desert Sweet Biofuels and research universities such as Arizona State University and specifically the Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology located on its Mesa campus position the state for rapid growth in this area.
Arizona has one biomass plant. According to the US Biomass Association, a typical 30 MW biopower plant employs about 120 workers (in plant and outside). This translates into about 7,000 jobs at the nation’s existing biomass facilities, plus another 7,000 jobs outside the plants, mainly in economically depressed rural areas. If a 25% Renewable Electricity Standard is put in place, it is estimated that 297,000 jobs will be created by the biomass industry by 2025.
Though Arizona lacks the high temperature geothermal resources of its neighboring states it does have pretty extensive low-to-moderate-temperature fluids geothermal resources; resources that are under-utilized. Arizona does lead the nation in one area of geothermal application and that is in the use of low temperature geothermal for aquaculture. In addition the state benefits from the neighboring state’s geothermal sectors because it is an important supplier of power and cooling systems components used by geothermal.
Arizona is a desert, but it does have an important river, the Colorado running partly through it (and partly on its shared border with Nevada and California). A series of large dams along the Colorado river including the Hoover Dam and the Glen Canyon Dam, supply significant electric power to the American southwest including Arizona. These are mature facilities, largely built during the big public works era of the last century. Arizona is a top-ten hydropower generating state with a rank of 9.
Hydropower accounts for 7% of domestic electricity production in the U.S.The U.S. has the 2nd largest installed capacity of hydropower in the world. The U.S. hydropower industry currently employs up to 300,000 workers, from project development to manufacturing to facilities operations and maintenance. Under the current weak renewable energy standard already in place, jobs will increase to 480,000 by 2025. Under a strong renewable energy standard scenario, jobs will increase to more than 1,100,000.