Arizona: the next solar capitol of the world? - East Valley Tribune: Living Green

Arizona: the next solar capitol of the world?

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Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 11:00 am | Updated: 4:37 pm, Thu Jan 27, 2011.

It seems like every day there is another article or announcement about the solar industry. As well, more and more consumers and businesses are looking into solar alternatives. And with 320 days of sunshine per year, you'd think Arizona was on the verge of becoming the solar capitol of the world, right?

Through proper economic incentives and financing options, Arizona has the potential to become the solar capitol in terms of solar power generation and manufacturing, and services related to the research, development and manufacturing of solar technology. Unfortunately, the current costs of installing photovoltaic equipment still make this form of renewable energy an expensive option for power generation.

However, solar energy is getting more cost effective every day and methods of financing solar installations are becoming more numerous through leases, low interest loans and utility incentives. These industry innovations are increasingly accelerating the adoption of solar. In the meantime, SRP and other Arizona utilities continue to assess all solar technologies to find the most cost effective and environmentally beneficial source of clean energy.

Currently, Arizona and California are competing to become the leaders in solar generation here in the United States. More than 40 solar projects have been proposed for Arizona on both private and public lands and, if built, would cover more than 725,000 acres and provide up to 2.5 gigawatts of generating capacity, or enough electricity to power more than 25 million homes.

Since SRP's EarthWise Solar Energy program launched in 2004, we have enabled thousands of Valley customers to live, work and play in homes, schools and businesses utilizing energy from the sun. Since the program started in 2004:

• More than 6,200 customers have participated in the programs.

• More than $54 million has been budgeted to fund rooftop solar systems.

• More than 1,600 residential customers and 100 commercial customers will benefit from the program this fiscal year.

• SRP has currently provided or reserved incentives for 27 megawatts of solar energy from customer solar systems.

Additionally, plans to build a 20-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in the far East Valley as part of the SRP Community Solar program are already underway. This new program will allow residential customers and public schools in SRP's service territory, which may not have the ability or desire to invest in rooftop structures, to purchase energy from a solar photovoltaic power plant to be built in 2011. This and other solar projects in the pipeline will continue to drive down the cost of solar and hopefully is one way of many that will help put us on the road to becoming the solar capitol of the world.

Lori Singleton is manager of sustainability initiatives and technologies for SRP.

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