A tower to the sun

CITY HALL — Glendale could receive solar power generated by a tower higher than the Empire State Building under a nearly $200-million agreement that goes to the City Council next week.

Earlier this month, the City Council introduced the proposed purchase agreement for the La Paz Solar Tower Project with a consortium of cities through the Southern California Public Power Authority.

Australia-based EnviroMission is scheduled to build the project in the desert of Arizona's La Paz County, with construction on the 2,400-foot-high tower set to begin in July 2012.

The Empire State Building is roughly 1,250 feet tall, while the world's tallest building, in Dubai, stands at about 2,700 feet tall.

"It is different than any other GWP renewable project," said General Manager Glenn Steiger.

Under the proposed agreement, the city would purchase up to $6.6-million worth of solar power generated by the La Paz Tower annually for 30 years once the tower is operational in 2014.

Under the purchase agreement, the city would only pay for power that is generated, officials said. The contract also provides for compensation if the tower is not functional.

The project, utility officials said, would help the city meet strict state standards on carbon emission and renewable energy. It would also be the city's first use of utility-scale solar energy.

State law requires that 33% of power provided by utilities be from renewable sources — such as power generated by solar, wind or landfill gas — by 2020.

"At some point we've got to bring our emissions down, and the best way to do that is to scale in renewable and reduce in our market purchases of dirty power," said Assistant General Manager Steve Lins.

Glendale Water & Power is already well on its way, with about 24% of its power coming from renewable sources. The La Paz project would bring that number to about 30% in 2015, officials said.

Council members lauded the project, while noting that the energy costs roughly double what the city currently pays to coal-burning plants.

"When council makes decisions, we are not solely looking at what is going to provide the residents the absolutely cheapest source of electricity," Mayor Ara Najarian said. "Cheap also means dirty."

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