The Colorado Governor’s Energy Office, in a report published in 2008, identified the San Luis Valley as a prime location for solar development in the state of Colorado. The San Luis Valley has clear skies, cool temperatures and a high elevation at over 7,000 feet, and 1-3% gradient slopes on the Valley floor, making it a very favorable location for development of large-scale solar facilities.
In 2007, Sun Edison built a solar photovoltaic plant near Mosca, Colorado, and power generation from this facility was higher than projected. Sun Edison has also developed PV plants for Alamosa High School and the San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center. Since then two more solar electric plants have been built in the Mosca-Hooper area and another plant has just been granted a permit to build.
This type of energy production, which is small-scale, distributed, and does not require large-scale transmission, is one example of how energy demands can be met. (See The Nation: Think Solar, Think Small and Rocky Mountain Institute Newsletter: Small is Profitable). Germany has incorporated many similar types of facilities into their basic infrastructure, and despite the fact that they receive only 58% of the sunlight as the Southwest, they are able to meet many of their energy demands.
Industrial Scale or Concentrated Solar Plants, on the other hand, produce energy on a large-scale. They require some type of additional power to keep the energy flowing even when the sun is not shining, and they usually require the construction of high-voltage transmission lines to deliver the energy to areas of need. Most of the CSP plants currently in operation use large amounts of water (see table). Many citizens believe that caution must be exercised for the San Luis Valley, where water issues have been a topic of concern for years. Sandia Laboratories, in New Mexico, is experimenting with Stirling Engine technology to address this concern.