Solar tower project could be boost to Arizona border town - New York News

Solar tower project could be boost to Arizona border town

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SAN LUIS, Ariz. - San Luis is located in extreme southwest Arizona. It's southwest of Yuma, between the Mexican border and the Colorado river.

It's actually Arizona's biggest border town, and it may soon get a lot bigger, and taller if the nations tallest structure is built there.

"The city is committed to doing everything in its ability to facilitate the completion of this project," said Mayor Gerardo Sanchez.

He's committed to a concrete tower, as tall as two Chicago John Hancock Centers stacked on top of each other, or 2,250 feet tall. It would make it the tallest structure in North America.

"This is a model of our solar wind energy tower, which is a large hollow cylinder that we will locate in a hot, dry, arid area," said Ronald Pickett.

Ron Pickett is the CEO of Solar Wind Energy Towers, if his tower is built, he says it will generate as much electrical power as Hoover Dam.

"Here in Phoenix, about 1/3 of your population could be powered by this," he said.

Pickett explained how it works. "We introduce a mist of water at the top, and hot air absorbs the water, and because it's thirst it becomes dense as soon as it does, it starts to sink."

"As it sinks it evaporates, and it cools we all know about that... as it cools, it sinks really fast; cold air in this hot environment is chasing to the bottom of the tower... at the bottom of the tower, we turn the wind we've created in the tunnels, and they spin turbines to make electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days per year" he said.

They want to build the tower on 640 acres of very arid land that used to be a citrus orchard inside the City of San Luis.

"Because we have the perfect environment, dry weather, and it's basically almost year round, it's a perfect environment, and we have the land, and we have the resources," said Sanchez.

"San Luis has the ideal condition in North America to support the tower," said Pickett.

The tower will need include water, a lot of it. A federal study found an aquifer under the desert filled with water that the city doesn't come close to tapping out. According to city planners, the tower will use less water than was allocated to irrigate the land it will be put on.

The tower will also help San Luis when it comes to employment. Most people there work seasonal agricultural jobs.

"We're looking at 65, 67% unemployment," said Sanchez.

"After we start operations, we currently estimate around 500 permanent jobs," said Pickett.

"500 permanent jobs, that's a very good resources for our community," said Sanchez.

And more than 2,000 people will be hired to build it, but who picks up the bill? Construction costs are estimated to reach 1 1/2 billion dollars.

"Zero costs to the city, there is no cost," said Glenn Gimbut, the San Luis City Attorney.

Glenn Gimbut negotiated the deal, he says the tower will be funded by private investors only.

"We have a conditional financing commitment from an international group to finance the project," said Pickett.

And a very green project at that.

"Well zero, we can't say we are at zero-carbon footprint because we might have a gas lawnmower to cut the grass or something, but the tower itself has no carbon emissions," he said.

But even the city admits there's a lot that can happen between now and the groundbreaking in 2015.

"I give it a 65% shot," said Gimbut.

But what a shot in the arm to this city if it is built.

"It's going to create a big impact, I think it's going to be a very positive thing for the community," sand Sanchez.
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