Solar Power Plants Find Homes in Arizona

by | Aug 11, 2010

Arizona is about to become home to two new solar power plants. The University of Arizona will host a 1.6-megawatt (MW) system, while the Luke Air Force Base (AFB) will house a 15-MW plant, touted as the largest solar installation on U.S. government property.

SOLON inked a deal with Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) that will bring the 1.6-MW turnkey power plant to the University of Arizona’s UATechPark’s SolarZone, a 200-acre solar integration center.

The University of Arizona also has a $32-million concentrated solar plant project underway at the SolarZone to be built by Bell Independent Power.

The new 1.6-MW solar plant will consist of SOLON’s Velocity MW Solar System and 5,808 locally-manufactured, high-efficiency solar modules. The plant is expected to provide a more cost effective way for TEP to integrate solar power into its renewable energy portfolio.

The single-axis tracking system will be owned and operated by TEP. Construction is scheduled to be completed by December 2010.

Similarly, Arizona Public Service (APS) will own and operate a new 15-MW photovoltaic power plant to be built at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz. SunPower will design and construct the solar plant, which is expected to come online in summer 2011. It will be the largest solar installation on U.S. government property.

Before construction can begin in January 2011, the companies need to conduct environmental assessments, permitting and site preparation work.

The plant, which will be located on more than 100 acres of underutilized land on the base, will use 52,000 high-efficiency SunPower solar panels. A single-axis tracking system will allow the panels to follow the sun across the sky, capturing 25 percent more energy than if the panels were stationary.

The plant’s 15-megawatt capacity is equivalent to the energy needs of 3,750 Arizona homes or 50 percent of the Base’s energy needs.

This is the second solar project collaboration for APS and Luke Air Force Base. In 2006, APS provided $1.5 million in incentives to reduce the cost of integrating a 375-kilowatt solar system into the Base Exchange’s new roof.

Military installations across the U.S. are working towards meeting the Defense Department’s goal to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

As an example, the Soaring Heights Community at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, announced last year, is expected to become the largest solar-powered community in the continental United States. It will boost Arizona’s use of renewable energy by 15 percent and produce about 10 million kilowatt hours annually.

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