Solar in Action
Arizona is now home to the world’s largest solar plant, the U.S. military’s largest solar plant and the world’s premier photovoltaic testing laboratory—as well as more than 100 businesses in the solar energy field. Solar energy generation rose a whopping 333% in 2011, from 63 to 273 megawatts. According to the 2011 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Arizona is the third state in the nation for solar system installation. To help jump this number even further, large solar fields are springing up across the state. Built by private companies, these commercial-scale projects are using thousands of photovoltaic panels to generate electricity that will be purchased by Arizona’s power companies and distributed across the state. These projects are using some of the most advanced solar technology in the world to not only generate energy, but to store it for future use. Much of that research is being done right here in Arizona.
At the same time, solar energy for heat and electricity is expanding in homes and businesses. Several options can be used for small-scale installations.
How Solar Electricity Works
Photovoltaic panels are currently the most common way to generate electricity from solar energy. Photovoltaic panels are made with semiconductors that release electrons when light hits them. The electrons are then made to flow, generating current. Currently, energy from solar panels is challenging to store for use when the sun is not shining. However, researchers and innovators across the state are achieving remarkable advancements toward improving the cost and efficiency of solar technology.
Solar thermal converts sunlight directly to heat energy through the use of collector plates. Advanced techniques, such as focusing or reflecting sunlight, are increasingly applied to large-scale solar thermal power plants to create steam that drives traditional turbines and generators. Smaller-scale units are often used in solar water heating systems.
Find out how Arizona Public Service (APS) uses the latest commercial innovations to expand its solar power.
Use the solar power calculator to determine how much money you may save with solar fixtures.
Planned Solar Generators
Solana Generating Station
Built by: Abengoa Solar
APS will receive electricity through a power purchase agreement.
The Solana Generating Station under construction near Gila Bend will bring large-scale solar power breakthroughs to Arizona. It will be one of the largest solar plants in the world and APS’ largest source of renewable energy. Moreover, it will store energy for use after the sun goes down—the first large scale plant in America with solar storage capacity. Planned to be operational in 2014, Solana will be a 280-megawatt concentrating solar power plant serving 70,000 Arizona homes. In the meantime, construction of the field has created 1,500 jobs.
Pacific Gas and Electric will receive electricity through a power purchase agreement.
Located 65 miles east of the city of Yuma on the former White Wing Ranch, the Agua Caliente Solar Project will produce sufficient electricity to power about 100,000 average homes per year. Solar panels on this roughly three-square mile field are expected to provide over 2 gigawatts of power.
Solar in the Military
APS/Luke Air Force Base Photovoltaic
Built by: SunPower Corp
With 52,000 high-efficiency SunPower solar panels generating 15 megawatts across 100 acres of underutilized land on Luke Air Force Base in Maricopa County, the Luke Air Force Base photovoltaic project will be the largest solar installation on U.S. government property.
Information provided in part by Arizona Solar State.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Sopogy’s MicroCSP solar cooling project at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Tucson will showcase the viability of MicroCSP solar technology with an absorption chiller to effectively supply solar cooling for the Youth Center. The integrated solar air conditioning system includes Sopogy’s MicroCSP parabolic solar energy system linked to a double-effect absorption chiller plus thermal energy storage.
The 60 ton output of the MicroCSP solar cooling system at Davis-Monthan AFB will reduce CO2 emissions by 2,220 metric tons of over the lifetime of the product. The system’s impact is equivalent to removing 450 cars from the road.
Homes and businesses and Arizona’s universities are investing in solar technology now to offset energy costs in the long term. Thanks to tax credits and collaboration with Arizona’s energy companies, photovoltaic panels to generate electricity on a small scale are becoming more achievable.
Energizing Taliesin West
On May 24, 2012, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation inaugurated a new 250-kilowatt (AC) solar PV power system donated by First Solar which will help power the historic Taliesin West campus in Scottsdale, Arizona. Taliesin West is not only a historic landmark, but also a site of tremendous significance to the international architecture community.
Text and information from First Solar.