President Barack Obama has spent billions of taxpayer dollars trying to kill the oil industry in favor of green energy. The shutdown of Solyndra has become the poster child of Obama’s failed green energy program.
So perhaps Obama will start touting the success of the Aqua Caliente Solar Project in Yuma, Arizona. Yuma is one of the sunniest places in America averaging 350 sunny days a year out 365. Located in the Lower Sonoran Desert in the southwestern corner of Arizona, there are miles of open and nearly barren desert, making it an ideal place to build the world’s largest solar panel power generating system.
Aqua Caliente Solar Project covers nearly 2,400 acres of desert land. Its construction took several years and is projected to produce 350 MW of power, enough to service about 225,000 homes in California. President Obama helped secure $967 million in federal loans for the construction and start-up of ACSP. Currently, Aqua Caliente has 10 permanent employees, which means that it cost US taxpayers nearly $100 million per permanent job.
Perhaps I should note at this point that Yuma has an unemployment rate of 26.1%, one of the highest, if not the highest in the nation. Aqua Caliente is supposed to be completed later this year and at that time they plan on having 16 permanent jobs at the facility which still means it cost taxpayers $60.4 million per job.
Now contrast Yuma with Midland, Texas. Midland sits on top of a huge shale oil and uses fracking to extract the oil. Between 2009 and 2011, the Texas town saw a 25% increase per capita income which is more than three times the national average. What is the unemployment rate in Midland you ask? Try 2.9% unemployment, the lowest of any metro area in the nation. How much in federal guaranteed loans did Midland get? After a little research, I couldn’t find any.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a lot of potential for solar energy and it is a huge plus for the environment since it produces no pollutants. I question the cost of building huge solar power plants like Aqua Caliente.
Nearly 40 years ago, a gentleman in our church worked developing solar technology. On his own, he built a relatively small solar unit in his backyard that only cost him several thousand dollars at the time. He lived in a big three-story house with lots of windows and in the Arizona sun, that is normally an air conditioning nightmare. His solar panel unit was so efficient that during the summer, he kept his house nice and cool and had excess power that he sold back to the electric company.
If that technology existed 40 years ago, then why does it cost nearly a billion dollars to build a facility like Aqua Caliente?
When you weigh all the marbles, it seems like the oil industry in Midland is a far better economic boon than the solar energy industry of Yuma. Oil produces more jobs, more income per family and isn’t costing taxpayers a billion dollars. I don’t see the creation of 16 jobs at the cost of a billion dollars doing much to reduce unemployment or raise the local average income of a community. But if Obama had his way, fracking would be banned and he would try to turn Midland into another Yuma. That’s progress according to our president.