Fate of Ariz. solar plant may rest with Congress - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Fate of Ariz. solar plant may rest with Congress

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Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008 6:59 pm | Updated: 11:11 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The future of the world's largest solar power plant planned for the Arizona desert could depend on whether the two presidential candidates manage to get back to Washington.

Efforts to actually get a vote on extending federal income tax credits for renewable energy projects have been stalled as Democratic leaders have been unable to round up the 60 votes necessary to bring the bill to the floor.

Two of those six missing votes just this week were John McCain and Barack Obama. And while Obama is on record as favoring an extension of the credits - a McCain aide said Thursday he has yet to take a position - neither camp would commit to having its candidate in place to advance the measure at any future date.

That failure to act could prove fatal for the proposal by Abengoa Solar to build a 280-megawatt solar plant near Gila Bend: Kate Maracas, the company's vice president for Arizona operations, said if the tax credits expire at the end of this year, the power plant will not be built in Arizona - or, for that matter, anywhere in the United States.

And Steve Morse, Abengoa's senior adviser for U.S. operations, said just the pure delay by Congress could kill the project. He said the rising cost of steel and other supplies will, at some point, make the power plant uneconomical.

At this point, the future of the Arizona plant, dubbed Solana, remains in doubt, especially without McCain. That's because Republicans are blocking action on any energy bills until the Democrat-controlled Senate first acts on the president's request to lift the ban on offshore drilling for oil.

But McCain, as the home-state senator for this project, might be able to convince enough GOP colleagues to break ranks to at least permit a vote.

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