An Examination of Energy Sources in the Willows Community of Gilbert, Arizona
The community of Willows is located in the city of Gilbert, Arizona. It is an HOA community of single family homes, with a number of amenities included. As with any community, it has power usage needs that have to be considered. Before the community was built, the issue of how to get power to the area and how much power might be used by the residents there was considered. Then, the community was built and the houses were sold. That raised the amount of power that was needed in Gilbert, which is a growing city with a strong population base and many things for residents to enjoy. The power needs of any community are important, because residents want to be assured that they have enough of what they need to power their homes (Aitken, 2010). However, there is more to the issue than just what the residents want when it comes to the level of power they have. There are environmental and other energy usage issues that have to be carefully considered.
Without addressing all of the issues that come into play where power sources are concerned, the environment around the community can be badly damaged (Aitken, 2010). Most people do not think much about where their power comes from. They simply expect their lights to come on and their heating and air conditioning systems to work as anticipated. Of course, the power to handle all of those things is a complicated system, and it must all work together to supply residents with what they need. Willows has 586 homes. That may not sound like much, but every one of those homes has at least one person living them, and they all use power. As a family-friendly community, Willows attracts many parents and children, which increases the power consumption for the homes, as well.
Solar energy, hydroelectricity, and wind power are the three types of power sources most commonly used for Willows and the Gilbert area in general (Renewable, 2014). One of the main reasons solar energy is so popular there comes from all of the abundant heat and sunshine that Arizona receives. It is rarely cold in Gilbert, and the days when it rains or is cloudy can be easily counted. There are not very many times when solar energy would not seem to be a good choice there. Even after a few cloudy days in a row -- which is a rare occurrence in Gilbert -- there is still plenty of solar energy stored up. Some houses have their own solar panels, and SRP (the local power company) gets solar power from the Copper Crossing Solar Ranch, which is located in Florence, Arizona (Renewable, 2014). Glendale also has a solar power generating system that is used by SRP, and there are two systems right in Gilbert, at the Rogers Substation (Renewable, 2014). With all of the options the community has for solar power, it is no wonder that it is one of the most popular ways to power homes and businesses.
Hydroelectricity, or power generated from water, is another great way for Willows and the city of Gilbert to receive power for homes and for businesses. While that may seem odd because of the desert environment, there are lakes, streams, and rivers that can be used to create power. There are also underground springs and other sources, from which water energy can be generated. For SRP, there are two dams. One is on the Salt River, and another on the Verde River (Renewable, 2014). When the two rivers are combined, there are a total of seven different dams used. That creates a tremendous amount of power that can be used by SRP to serve customers. When coupled with low-energy ways to use hydroelectric power through the use of the water's own natural flow and the changes in elevation, SRP has an excellent source of energy with which to work.
Wind power is another popular way to get electricity to homes and businesses. The wind farm located near Heber, Arizona was purchased by SRP in 2009, and that allowed SRP to have more options for powering homes (Renewable, 2014). Currently, 20,000 homes are powered by the energy that comes from the wind farm (Renewable, 2014). That is an impressive number, considering the source of energy traveling to them is completely sustainable and will not run out. That is the problem with many energy options. The energy source is not renewable, so eventually it is simply gone. With solar, hydroelectric, and wind power, this will never be the case (Makower, Pernick, & Wilder, 2009). Harvesting this energy does not cause any problems at all, because it does not make use of any natural resources that are not replenished. These are safe and effective ways to get energy to SRP's customers in Willows and other areas of Gilbert and the surrounding towns and cities. However, that energy is not free, because of the equipment required to harness and transport it (Makower, Pernick, & Wilder, 2009). That can raise costs to the customers.
With the right types of power being used for Willows, the community will be able to enjoy enough electricity to meet its needs for a long time to come. That allows it to expand if necessary, and to handle the changing power requirements as families come and go from the area. Because things do not stay the same for very long in a community, companies that provide power to that community have to be ready to grow and adapt to change. By doing this, SRP is showing that it understands the types of power needs its customers have, and that it is ready to take on those needs and handle them accordingly. That helps the people of Willow rely on SRP to provide them with what they need.
Impact on the Environment
The three types of energy used by Willows (wind, water, and solar power) do not have a negative impact on the environment in the area. They are all sustainable, and that means they will not run out no matter how much of them is used. There will always be sun and wind, and the water itself is not being used. The energy that the moving water produces is what is being used to power homes. While water levels could change, the energy that can be harnessed from the water will remain the same. In that sense, SRP is not using up anything that cannot be replaced and replenished. The power sources used by SRP have been very popular during the time period in which they have been used. They have been a part of the community since before Willows was built, since the Arizona desert lends itself to the use of these particular types of power so very easily. When communities use renewable power sources that are convenient for them, they can save money and provide higher levels of service (and more reliable power) to the people they serve (Lovins, 2011). One could argue that changing the way resources are distributed in any way, or building anything in the desert could affect the environment (Makower, Pernick, & Wilder, 2009). After all, it does change that environment in some ways, which causes plants and animals to have to adjust.
However, the harnessing of these types of power is not taking valuable resources away from the creatures in the environment who use them. The community also does not have nuclear waste to dispose of, so it does not need to worry about creating safe and effective ways to do that. It is only concerned with how the power is produced and whether that power is making its way to the people who need it. Using these types of resources over time has been very helpful and beneficial to the community. It has been able to focus on making sure everyone has what they need, and the renewable resources mean that the community and the city will not be running out of something that is vital to survival. Without the power to their homes, Willows would be a much different place to live. While using these types of resources is not perfect, the desert provides abundant wind and sunshine to be harnessed, and there is plenty of water from the Salt and Verde rivers. As such, the use of wind, water, and sunlight for power has had little to no negative impacts on the area, and plenty of positive ones. Air and water quality have not been compromised, as they might have been with other sources of power that would have been available to the community.
Anytime a dam is built or a wind farm goes up, there are some environmental impacts to be felt, though (Lovins, 2011). For example, a dam may change the habitat for some fish and other aquatic life, and may stop certain species from traveling…