The newsLINK Group - Reclaiming Mines for Solar Energy Production

Editorial Library Category: Mining Topics: Mining, Solar Energy Title: Reclaiming Mines for Solar Energy Production Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: Utah is a mining state because of the plentiful coal, hydrocarbons, metals, and minerals to be found throughout the state. Make no mistake — mining has had a great deal to do with Utah’s economic and industrial development, its politics and social life, and its development, and it is still a necessary part of the state’s economic structure. Editorial: Reclaiming Mines for Solar Energy Production 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 Utah is a mining state because of the plentiful coal, hydrocarbons, metals, and minerals to be found throughout the state. Make no mistake — mining has had a great deal to do with Utah’s economic and industrial development, its politics and social life, and its development, and it is still a necessary part of the state’s economic structure. Mining has created good jobs in Utah and has also produced a steady stream of many necessary products that many people take for granted. That combination of good jobs and useful products is not going to change anytime soon. At some point, however, the return from mining becomes less than the expense of mining, and mining companies turn their attention to reclamation and alternative uses. The U.S. may have as many as 500,000 mines that are no longer in use, although the U.S. General Accounting Office has a lower estimate of between 80,000 and 250,000 mine lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that the number in Utah is probably between 8,000 and 11,000, but no one has conducted a precise inventory. What is the best way to make use of land once the metal has been extracted? There is more than one solution, but one of the better possibilities is devoting these sites to the development of solar energy. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promoting solar energy production as an innovative and forward-looking solution for many mine lands. In the past, solar energy has been an expensive source of power because of the cost to build and install the necessary equipment, but the cost is declining, and experts expect that it will continue to decline. They also expect that other energy sources will continue to increase in price. At some point, solar energy is going to start looking more and more like a smart solution for many of our energy woes. This is especially true because light from the sun is as close to an inexhaustible power supply as anyone is likely to find, and it is entirely free. Once a solar energy production facility is in place, therefore, it generates energy at a fixed energy cost. According to a study that was performed by the Department of Energy for the Western Governors’ Association, the southwestern states have enough land, and enough sun, to generate as much as 7,000 GW. How much sun? In this part of the U.S., you can usually count on more than 300 days a year. That number may not mean much to you unless you are familiar with energy production in the U.S., but a comparison will help: the entire U.S. can currently generate about 1,100 GW of electrical power. The southwest states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. In other word, Utah has the potential to produce a large amount of solar power. The DOE has established the minimum site requirements for creating a solar thermal facility: The land needs to be in a sunny spot. More specifically, the average amount of solar power that can be produced has to be at least 6.75 kWh/m2. A solar thermal facility needs to be large in order to be competitive financially. The minimum amount of land is 40 acres. Existing transmission lines and roads should be within 25 miles so that it won’t be too difficult to supply grid- connected applications. Many mines have existing infrastructure that was built to accommodate mining, so there is often no need to build roads or put in power transmission lines. That work has often been done already. It has to be fairly flat; topographically, there can only be a three percent slope. Mines are often located in remote areas where the electrical infrastructure is limited, which means that the solar power being generated comes in useful for things like powering a groundwater system to pump and treat water. Solar energy can be put to use in two ways. Passive techniques have been used for as long as people have been building houses; these consist of ideas such as the following:

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