With lots of sunshine, Arizona seems like a natural place for solarpower generation, but it has lagged behind other states. All of this isset to change when Arizona acquires the largest solar-powered communityin the continental U.S.
A coalition composed of developer Actus Lend Lease, solar system designer SolarCity, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), and financing parties National Bank of Arizona and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) are working to create one of the nation’s largest distributed, community-wide solar power systems at Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The systems will produce more than 10 million kilowatt hours ofelectricity annually—sufficient to provide an estimated 75% of theresidents’ energy use next year—and could eventually offset 100% ofSoaring Heights Communities’ electricity use. Soaring Heights will alsobe Arizona’s largest solar-powered community. The complete installationis expected to include six megawatts of total solar capacity in acombination of a ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) system and rooftopsolar systems that will be installed on approximately 900 residences.
National Bank of Arizona will own the 45,000 panel ground-mountedsystem, which accounts for more than 3.3 megawatts of solar capacity.The balance of the system will consist of 36,000 more panels in therooftop arrays. The project will increase Arizona’s current solarcapacity by more than 15%. Collectively, the installation is expectedto offset more than 570 million pounds of carbon dioxide over itslifetime, the equivalent of taking approximately 50,000 cars off theroad for a year, or planting more than 300,000 trees.
"We’re excited about this project. We hope it will serve as aninspiration to developers and homeowners alike," said Joe Salkowski, aspokesman for Tucson Electric Power told the Arizona Daily Star.
The Arizona Corporation Commissionhas directed TEP to cut its use of coal-fired power and increase itsuse of renewable energy sources by 15 percent by 2025. The SoaringHeights project will help TEP meet that goal. TEP will provideincentives through its customer-funded SunShare program to reduce thelong-term cost of Soaring Heights Communities’ photovoltaicinstallation. Work is due to be completed next year.
Soaring Heights Communities will also be one of the firstsolar-powered communities on an Air Force Base in the U.S. Actus LendLease is currently developing one of the world’s largest solar poweredcommunities at its Army Hawaii Family Housing complex.
“We are very excited about the Soaring Heights Communities projectbecause it allows us to leverage our background and expertise inrenewable energy initiatives as they relate to community development,”said Dale Connor, Actus Lend Lease managing director. “We look forwardto working closely with our partners and the Department of Defense toset a standard for sustainable living here in Arizona and throughoutthe country.”
Starting earlier this month, SolarCity began installing 1,000 PVmodules per day on previously vacant land near Soaring HeightsCommunities. Homes in the community have been selected for solarinstallations based on their specific location and suitability forsolar panels. Most of the homes selected for solar system installationswill be new and built to the rigorous energy efficiency standards ofTEP’s Guarantee Home Program; some are existing homes.
“Through the SunShare incentives that make this project possible,every TEP customer will be invested in the success of this remarkablenew solar-powered community,” said David Hutchens, vice president ofenergy efficiency and resource planning for TEP and its parent company,UniSource Energy Corporation (NYSE:UNS).“This project will help shrink the carbon footprint of Tucson’s largestmilitary base while setting a new standard for distributed solar powersystems.”
SolarCity will outfit solar systems with its SolarGuard monitoring systemsto measure solar electricity production, and to compare the performanceof the ground-mounted arrays against the rooftop arrays. The monitorswill inform project partners about how the arrays might interact withthe smart grid of the future.
“Soaring Heights Communities is truly a solar city, and our largestinstallation to date,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. “We expect thisproject to be a springboard for additional clean power development inArizona, one of the best locations for solar in the world.”
SolarCity is a national leader in solar power system design, financing,installation, monitoring and related services. It offers a number offinancing options to make it possible for homeowners and businesses toswitch to solar power for less money than they currently pay forelectricity.