by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
June 2, 2014
SECOND-HIGHEST TOWER ON EARTH TO RISE FROM ARIZONA DESERT
BRADENTON, Fla., June 2, 2014 -- A 2,235-foot tower - the largest structure in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world - is now planned for construction in San Luis, Ariz., about 30 miles south of Yuma on the U.S.-Mexican border, the American Reporter has learned.
San Luis is located about five hours south of Las Vegas, a half-hour south of Yuma and an hour east of Mexicali, Calif.
"I didn't know it was that tall," said San Luis resident Oliver Starkey when told of the SWET tower's planned height. He said local newspapers are written in Spanish, which he doesn't read, and there's been no television or radio coverage from the closest English-language stations. In fact, the company's CEO could not identify a single story about it other than his own Bloomberg News paid press release.
You can see the town's name on the FBI map of the area shown in the movie "The Last Stand," where the cartel bad guys murder a farmer and build a mobile assault bridge to let their boss cross the border after he escapes from FBI custody.
In the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a defiant, heroic sheriff who stops the drug boss in Somerton, a few miles northwest of San Luis and home to the city's building director, John Starkey.
San Luis Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said the project, approved in April by city and company officials, is expected to create some 4,000 jobs in the city of 28,000, where Sanchez said unemployment is currently at 29%. About 1,700 of the jobs will be permanent, he added.
It is unclear, however, why that many employees would be needed to run a tower that essentially runs itself.
National Standard Finance, LLC, has conditionally agreed to be the lead investor and co-owner of the project.
National Standard is based on Pine Street in San Francisco's financial district and says it has infrastructure development agreements with sovereign governments around the world, and that its present investments range in size from $20 million to $500 million. Mayor Sanchez said he believes the funding is "guaranteed."
"We welcome it," the mayor said. "We're very excited."
The city approvals allow SWET to begin construction now, Sanchez said. In that process, there will be site plans and other documents to be submitted, but the city is happy it's been selected as the site for the first tower.
The Marine Corps' Air Station Yuma base is nearby, and its records of temperature, earthquakes and other data proved critical to siting of the project, Sanchez said.
"It's not just the energy and the jobs," he added. "This project will change the city."
Oliver Starkey *no relation to Jon(, however, said the Colorado River is reduced to just a water canal by the time it reaches San Luis.
Along the way, on its 1,450-mile course from Wyoming through seven U.S. and two Mexican states to its terminus in Mexico at the Gulf of California, it nourishes countless thousands of farm crops, cattle and sheep and some 40 million people, according to public affairs officer Rose Davis of the Lower Colorado Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau operates a huge desalinization plant, treating salty agricultural runoff, in nearby Yuma.
The acreage where the tower will stand had fruit trees on it, Pickett said, and was using about the same amount of water the tower will require. Much of the water used will be reclaimed at the bottom of the tower, he said.
There are about five weeks when the temperature during the day in San Luis reaches 115 to 120 degrees, Starkey said, when every air-conditioner and refrigerator for hundreds of miles around will be running full blast. That's when the tower's output will be highest.
It's hard to imagine the tower's size.
"The width of the tower at the base is 1,200 feet," Pickett said.
That's roughly the size of a large airport hangar (the Lockheed plant in Marietta, Ga., once the world's largest indoor space, was smaller), or half the size of the Mall of America, the nation's largest mall under one roof - more than 1,100,000 square feet.
For the Bureau of Reclamation of the Dept. of Interior, however, the footprint was not the problem. The SWET tower's first planned location outside the San Luis city limits was in a salty water reclamation area, called Reclamation Well 243, that is home to an endangered desert species, the horned toad.
The problems eventually persuaded CEO Pickett to look elsewhere, a search which landed him inside the city limits. There, SWET purchased 650 acres to site the tower and got city approval to build it.
But where will the water come from? Doug Hendrix of the Bureau of Reclamation said SWET never "came forward with a precise estimate" of its water requirements, but Pickett told The American Reporter "it will come from the town."
Water and energy are key issues in the region, where Hendrix says 90 percent of the nation's lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are grown.
Hendrix says those crops have been served by its Yuma Desalination Plant, which is currently not in operation, and by electricity generated by a series of dams and private companies that turn the mighty stream of the Colorado River to electric power via the Hoover Dam, Davis, Parker and Headgate Rock dams, and by the Arizona Public Service and San Diego Electric utilities.
A treaty also guarantees Mexico 1.5-million acre feet of water from the Colorado, which flows on past San Luis to the Colorado River Delta in Mexico.
Oddly enough, despite the terrible drought that has reduced crops and herds in that part of the country, the Bureau's reserves have been sufficient to serve the region's need; the desalination plant could be restored to operation if more water is required, Hendrix said.
In that case, the energy companies and localities that are served by the water will pay for the plant's costly output.
It's unclear who will buy all the power the tower can generate.
San Luis is across the Colorado River from San Luis Rio Colorado, a town of 200,000 on the Mexican side, and is the site of a U.S. border crossing about 25 miles west of the California border.
Mayor Sanchez said that other than a company press release and this article, there has been no other news reporting on the tower's approval. The nearest tv station is in Yuma.
The Solar Wind Energy Tower (SWET) will be the second-tallest manmade structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, which stands at 2,722 feet. A 2,100-foot tower in Prague, Czechoslovakia, had been second-largest but collapsed.
The patented structure, the first of its kind, can produce 450 megawatts of electricity (one megawatt equals 1 million watts) at night and about 750 megawatts on hot days.
"The tower is comprised of a tall hollow cylinder with a water injection system near the top and wind tunnels containing turbines near the bottom," the company's website says.
Here's the principle of its operation, according to the SWET website:
"To start, a series of pumps deliver water to the Tower's injection system at the top, where a fine mist is sprayed across the entire opening. The water from the injection system then evaporates and is absorbed by hot dry air, which has been heated by the sun.
Made of concrete with super-strong basalt rebar, the tower will stand on 100 acres of land within San Luis, a border town of 28,000 to 29,000 people, Sanchez said. The company bought 650 acres inside the city limits, SWET said.
The project was approved by the city on April 23, 2014, at the regular City Council meeting.
SWET has a funding agreement for $1.5 billion, it said. The funding is conditional on SWET meeting standard progress goals. It will take about two years to build, planners said.
"On April 23, 2014," SWET said in a press release, "the City Council of San Luis., Ariz., approved moving forward with a Development and Protected Development Rights Agreement which guarantees the necessary local entitlements for development of the first tower within city limits."
Documents on the city's official website show that a resolution "of the Mayor and Council of the City of San Luis, Arizona authorizing a development and protected development rights agreement with Solar Wind Energy Tower, Inc." was approved that evening.
"Having this agreement in place accelerates development enabling the project to produce electricity as early as 2018," said Ron Pickett, CEO of SWET.
Based in Annapolis, Md., and traded on the over-the-counter market below a penny (SWET is the symbol), the company says it is "the inventor of large Solar Wind Downdraft Tower structures capable of producing abundant, inexpensive electricity."
The one structure can power 500,000 homes, an observer said. It is said to be far cheaper to build and infinitely safer than nuclear power plants that produce roughly the same amount of energy.
It can only be erected in hot desert environments, however, its planners say. That's one resource San Luis has in abundance.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, the world's first exclusively electronic daily newspaper. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org