US: ACC approves TEP’s plan to purchase 97 MWs of solar power systems in Tucson

According to TEP’s plans, three solar photovoltaics (PV) arrays would be built with fixed, stationary panels, including systems capable of generating 35 MW, 25 MW and five MW respectively. An additional two PV arrays would be installed, designed to track the sun’s arc across the sky along a single axis, including one rated at 12 MW and another at four MW. Finally, the company would invest in three concentrating solar power systems that focus sunlight on PV material "to improve energy output". One of these systems would be capable of generating 12 MW, while two others would produce up to two MW each.

The company is also looking to obtain a 2.2 MW landfill gas generation project and a 50 MW New Mexico wind farm. In total, it hopes to generate nearly 150 megawatts (MW) of energy, which it said is enough to power more than 30,000 Tucson homes. It added that the commission’s endorsement allows developers of the systems to proceed with efforts to finalize financing, secure land rights and clear other necessary hurdles in hopes of completing their projects in time to begin providing power next year or in 2012.

"These systems will dramatically expand our renewable energy assets, helping us meet or even beat our state goals while establishing TEP as a national leader in solar energy," said Paul Bonavia, chairman, president and CEO of TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corporation.

The proposed systems would reportedly complement two new solar power systems already planned to be built in the Tucson area by January 2012. Fotowatio Renewable Ventures is building a 25 MW single-axis tracking PV array near Marana, while Bell Independent Power Corp. (BIPC) is building a five MW concentrating solar power plant at the University of Arizona’s Science and Technology Park.

Before those systems come online, TEP explained that it will add 1.8 MW of capacity this year to its 4.6 MW Springerville Generating Station Solar System, which it said is one of the largest grid-tied PV arrays in the U.S. It added that it will also build a 1.6 MW single axis tracking array at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park later this year.

The projects backed by the ACC on August 24 are in the planning stages, and some of them may not be built if the developers are unable to arrange financing or clear other necessary hurdles, concluded TEP.