Tucson Electric Power joins Army to build solar installation

Arizona utility Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is partnering with the U.S. Army on an 18 MW solar array at the Fort Huachuca military base in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

The project, which began construction on Friday, will provide power to the base while directing any excess energy the system generates back into the grid for use by other TEP customers. The 18 MW installation will be able to provide enough power to meet one quarter of the base’s energy demand (equivalent to the annual electric needs of approximately 3,100 homes). The array is due to begin operation later this year. Once online, it will be TEP’s largest single solar resource.

TEP, which will own and operate the array, has contracted E.ON Climate & Renewables, with which it has partnered on other solar projects, to construct the system.

By the end of 2014, TEP expects to have more than 200 MW of utility-scale solar generating capacity – enough to meet the annual electric needs of 42,000 homes. TEP’s solar energy resources include utility-owned systems and other local resources secured through power purchase agreements as well as approximately 80 MW of distributed-generation systems installed by TEP customers.

"We’ve been expanding our company-owned solar resources by 20 MW each year through large local systems," said Carmine Tilghman, TEP senior director of Wholesale, Fuels and Renewable Resources. "Our partnership with Fort Huachuca offers us an opportunity to achieve a full year’s worth of progress at a single site."

TEP said the plant would be larger than any existing solar array on any U.S. military base in the world. In February, California’s SunEdison and MIC Solar Energy Holdings completed a 16.4 MW PV plant at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson, until now the largest solar energy facility at any U.S. Department of Defense installation.

TEP provides electric service to approximately 413,000 customers in southern Arizona.