Last year, Arizonans received 26 percent more megawatt hours of renewable energy than the previous year, reported APS to the Arizona Corporation Commission in May. That was enough to surpass Arizona’s renewable energy goals – set by the Arizona Corporation Commission – for the third straight year.
To help reach aggressive future goals, APS is spending about $500 million to build new photovoltaic (PV) solar plants located across Arizona. One of those solar facilities was just approved by the Chino Valley Town Council on May 24.
“The Chino Valley project is part of AZ Sun program. It is APS-owned, rather than a buy- back of power project,” said Matt Meierbachtol, APS community development consultant in Prescott. The AZ Sun initiative has APS financing and owning 100 megawatts of new photovoltaic solar plants. Chino is expected to produce 19 of the 100 megawatt goal.
Although controversial for some neighboring homeowners, the solar plant was unanimously approved by the Chino Valley Town Council. Jennifer Cannon, APS project manager for the Chino Valley solar project was born in Winslow, Arizona and understands rural issues. “I grew up in Winslow. Having sensitivity to small-town issues has really helped me with this project,” she said.
Cannon is executing the plans for construction of the PV power plant located northeast of the intersection of Highway 89 and Outer Loop Road, two miles north of the Prescott Regional Airport. The facility will be developed by SunEdison, with APS taking ownership at completion.
“The Chino Valley [construction] project is going to bring in 150 jobs at peak construction. We project $3.1 million of incremental tax benefit,” said Steven Gotfried, APS spokesperson for renewable energy.
“An additional $20 million will be injected into the economy during construction in terms of auxiliary benefits of sub-contractor spending and spending for food and supplies. It is worth noting that these additions will be made without adding burden to fire and police,” added Gotfried. The solar project comes at a time when economic relief is welcomed by rural communities.
Just last year, NAU researchers predicted that renewable energy could accelerate economic recovery. “Electricity from renewable energy sources will be instrumental in shaping Arizona’s economic future,” said William Auberle, professor of civil and environmental engineering in an online press release. “Mining our sun and wind is an exciting and economically attractive prospect. Thus, most Arizonans, particularly those in rural parts of the state, should be excited at the findings of our research.”
Auberle was part of the Northern Arizona University research team that released the Economic Development Opportunities for Arizona in National Clean Energy and Climate Change Legislation report last year. The study forecasted that Arizona could generate more than 50,000 construction-phase jobs, 4,000 permanent jobs and more than $10 billion in earnings and economic activity over the next decade under an aggressive clean-energy development policy.
According to APS, renewable generating resources have already increased from almost nothing (less than one megawatt) 10 years ago to enough (304 megawatts) to power a city the size of Yuma today. Yuma’s population is roughly equal to the populations of Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley combined.
Where will the power collected at Chino go? “Just like the wind power up near Flagstaff, the energy will go to meet the needs of all our customers. The power collected at Chino Valley will go onto the grid, and theoretically it is used by customers that are closest to the site. But it is much like a bucket of water with many little spouts radiating out. When you add water to the bucket, you can’t be sure which spout will deliver the water that you just poured in,” explained Gotfried.
“We figure that one megawatt of capacity will power about 250 Arizona homes,” Gotfried said. That means that the Chino solar project should power 4,750 homes.
In Flagstaff, APS is in the process of permitting a 500-700 kilowatt PV solar installation located on the east side of U.S. Highway 89 north of Swede Lane. “The site owned by APS was previously used as a substation,” said Cindy May, community development consultant for APS. May explained that once approved, the renewable energy site will include an educational component.
The state-of-the-art system will enables the PV solar panels to follow the sun across the sky, making the plant more efficient than static-mounted panels typically seen on rooftops.
In another project, APS will install solar on 200 homes with no upfront costs to customers. The Flagstaff Community Power Project is a pilot project to test the efficiency and viability of solar distribution as opposed to a large area collection sites like the one at Chino Valley.
“The response has been phenomenal. We are getting ready to close out on the application process,” said May. “There is a commercial piece of that project and Cromer Elementary School just got approval. Construction will start this summer on a solar system that is partially rooftop and partially grounded. We’re just about at our goal.”
Last year, renewables powered more than three percent of all Arizonans’ electric needs. With these new solar projects in Northern Arizona, APS should be on track to produce10 percent from renewables by 2015 and 15 percent by 2025. QCBN
Find incentives and rebates that are available for the purchase and installation of a new solar system for businesses and homeowners: www.arizonagoessolar.org