By Mark Cowling | Pinal Central
FLORENCE — Pinal is a leading producer of solar energy, which offers both benefits and drawbacks, the Board of Supervisors was told. County staff recommended further analysis of solar’s revenue potential in contrast with lost opportunity for other economic development.
The public has criticized the growth of solar fields in recent months in comments to the Board of Supervisors, and Pinal Community Development Director Brent Billingsley presented county staff’s analysis to the board on Nov. 9.
In response to one worry, solar farms do not contaminate the air or soil, but they may have other environmental effects. Residents sometimes complain of sunlight reflection, heat, noise and dust. The county has also heard concerns of wildlife disturbance.
Benefits include no additional traffic and no need for additional public services. Green energy adds to the county’s sustainability with very little water use and supports the environmental stewardship portion of Pinal’s Comprehensive Plan.
But solar farms can also sit on what might otherwise be economic development corridors, including future activity centers. The county should coordinate and communicate with its cities and towns, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the State Land Department to better locate solar facilities, staff recommends.
Court Rich, vice president of the board of the Arizona Solar Energy Industry Association, told the board there are also business personal property taxes on half a billion to $1 billion worth of equipment. The new Box Canyon solar project near Florence will generate $10 million in business personal property tax each to the local school district and Pinal County over 25 years, Rich said.
As for whether the amount of solar exceeds Pinal’s needs, Rich said the question surprised him. He said there’s no concern over whether the county is producing food in excess of local needs, or if Lucid Motors is building more cars than Pinal residents need.
He said Arizona Public Service Co. is actually turning away large energy users it can’t serve. “We need lots more power very quickly,” Rich said.