Chandler courting solar power companies - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Chandler courting solar power companies

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Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2009 6:20 pm | Updated: 1:42 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Just as a plant will reach toward the sun for nourishment, so are Chandler officials reaching out to the solar power industry, with its rapid projected growth and high-paying jobs.

City officials have been actively promoting Chandler's high-tech infrastructure and upscale lifestyle to large solar power companies. But Arizona faces stiff competition for such firms from Oregon, which offers lucrative tax credits.

Chris Camacho, vice president of business development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said he knows of 29 active solar power projects across the Valley, which translates into a $5.5 billion capital investment in the local economy. It also means the potential creation of up to 7,000 local new jobs.

Camacho said solar power firms have expressed a lot of interest in locating in the East Valley because of the area's heavy concentration of high-tech jobs and infrastructure.

"Many of our manufacturing and R&D facilities are evaluating Chandler," he said.

GPEC officials helped draft a proposed law called SB 1403, now under consideration in the state Legislature, to offer better tax incentives to solar companies and close the gap with rival Oregon, he said.

"We actually have a couple of companies that are waiting to see how serious Arizona is," Camacho said.

At an open house this month, Chandler City Councilman Bob Caccamo and state Sen. Jay Tibshraeny, R-Chandler, said they support bringing more solar to the state. Caccamo said it's hard to compete, however, with places like Oregon that want to attract environmentally friendly businesses so badly they'll "give the ship away."

Tibshraeny said firms would be geographically well-positioned in Arizona to take advantage of the solar equipment manufacturing market.

"California is a big market for these end units," he said.

Russ Patzer, owner of the Chandler-based Sun Valley Solar Solutions, which designs and installs solar power systems for homes, said he wouldn't have to pay as much in transportation costs if solar component manufacturers were based in the city, as well. And that means cheaper prices for customers.

"As a dealer, it would be nice to have the whole supply chain next to me," Patzer said.

Henk de Waard, president and CEO of the Tempe-based Nanovoltaix, which makes solar equipment and conducts research into renewable energies, said with the new federal emphasis on solar power, the industry could grow up to 45 percent a year for the next decade. That growth will be primarily in the Sun Belt, including Arizona, and it makes sense for solar companies to move here to reduce transportation costs, he said.

"Arizona has all the natural resources that make it an ideal place for solar," de Waard said. "For manufacturers, it's important to be where the end users are."

Chandler, with its 320 days of sunshine and its investment in high-tech infrastructure along the Price Road technology corridor, is an attractive option, he said.

"Chandler has all the right ingredients. The solar industry makes use of the same talent as the semiconductor industry and the same infrastructure," de Waard said.

He said SB 1403 would narrow the gap between Arizona and Oregon.

"Oregon has been very aggressive in attracting major solar companies. They saw this significant growth potential and they wanted to get a piece of that," de Waard said. "It's a powerful financial incentive for companies to move to Oregon."

But if Arizona is successful in bringing new solar companies here, the effort could pay off handsomely.

"Solar technology is advanced technology," de Waard said. "If Arizona steps up to the plate and stimulates this industry, this will create a number of high-tech, high-paying jobs in the Valley."

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