Solar power company agrees to pay $1.5 million for air quality violations at Gila Bend plant

The Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD) said Arizona Solar One, operators of Solano Generating Station in Gila Bend, has agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine for violations of air quality regulations that occurred between June 2014 and January 2016.


The Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD) said Arizona Solar One, operators of Solano Generating Station in Gila Bend, has agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine for violations of air quality regulations that occurred between June 2014 and January 2016.

From 2014 to 2016, the department cited the company for 21 violations, including failure to conduct performance tests as required by their permit, removal of emissions control systems without approval and exceeding permitted emissions limits.

 “This settlement and the associated fine reflect the significance of their air pollution violations,” MCAQD Director Philip McNeely said.

“We are pleased that Arizona Solar One is taking positive steps to improve their operation," McNeely said. “This company has indicated their willingness to work with the department to ensure that future renewable energy production at this facility complies with all appropriate air quality regulations.”

Under terms of the settlement, the company will make a multimillion dollar investment to make repairs and upgrade its facility as well as pay the $1.5 million fine.

Funds from the settlement will be used by MCAQD to fund research projects related to air quality, community outreach campaigns and community programs that will help keep the air clean and Arizona residents healthy.

“Clean air is the expectation and right of every person in Maricopa County,” Maricopa County District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo said.  “I’m pleased we could reach this settlement with Arizona Solar One and put that money toward community programs and research that will continue to improve our air quality.”

In a 2015 order signed by McNeely, the company was accused of failing to monitor, operate and maintain the facility's emissions control systems, failing to take corrective action when the facility's emissions control systems operated outside of its own operating and maintenance plan and failing to log monitoring records or conduct a performance test on the facility's carbon adsorption system.

The company was ordered to take corrective measures that had to be in place between February 2015 and March 2016.

Each day the facility operated without complying with air pollution regulations was recorded as a separate violation, and the company was subject to a potential civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation per day.

The Gila Bend station was hit by a microburst for a few days in late July and won't generate power normally for months, the Phoenix New Times reported recently.

This problem comes on top what the News Times described as the “generally poor performance from the $2 billion project over the past two years.”

In its first year the plant produced only about two-thirds of the power that its former owner, Spain's Abengoa Solar, said it would.

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