On land once farmed for alfalfa in the middle of fields and new homes, thousands of solar panels sit quietly generating electricity for Salt River Project.
Copper Crossing Solar Ranch, located on the western edge of Florence near Queen Creek in the far southeast Valley, is producing 20 megawatts of solar energy each day – enough to power approximately 3,700 SRP customers’ homes. The recently completed facility, Iberdrola Renewables’ first solar plant in the United States and the largest in Arizona, contains approximately 66,000 high-efficiency solar panels on 144 acres. Each panel, manufactured by SunPower Corp., uses very little water and tracks the sun throughout the day.
Along with generating a clean source of energy for our customers, the plant also supports SRP’s Sustainable Portfolio, a goal set by the SRP Board to meet 20 percent of our retail electricity requirements through sustainable resources by the year 2020. Currently, SRP is ahead of schedule – providing about 7 percent of retail energy needs with sustainable resources, including renewable, conservation, efficiency and pricing measures.
Because solar is a clean energy source, an estimated 575,000 metric tons over the next 25 years will not be emitted into the Valley’s air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that is equivalent to taking about 4,500 vehicles off the road each year for 25 years.
At SRP, we have developed a program that allows schools and residential customers to invest in this clean, renewable energy source. Through the SRP Community Solar program, more than 100 schools in 11 Valley school districts are tapping into the power of the sun this school year to offset a portion of their electric needs. The school districts have agreed to participate in SRP’s new Community Solar program and are among the first customers to receive energy from the plant.
The school districts will purchase a total of 7,840 kilowatts of solar energy from the plant for a fixed price for 10 years. Schools benefit from price certainty as the energy purchased through Community Solar is not subject to other SRP price increases for 10 years.
In addition, SRP is offering education resources to the schools that meet Arizona State Academic Standards through an integrated approach. Along with lesson plans, SRP offers $350 mini-grants to teachers who receive training on the materials that can be used to purchase hands-on materials to enhance learning.
The following districts are participating in the program:
Chandler Unified School District, East Valley Institute of Technology, Florence Unified School District, Fountain Hills Unified School District, J.O. Combs Unified School District, Kyrene School District, Laveen Elementary School District, Osborn School District, Pendergast Elementary School District, Phoenix Union High School District and Tolleson Elementary School District.
SRP Community Solar also is available to residential customers who want an easy, affordable way to make Arizona’s abundant sunshine work for them. Participating residential customers will pay a small premium to offset a portion of their usage with solar energy.
More information about Community Solar is available at www.srpnet.com/cs
Lori Singleton is manager of customer program operations for solar, sustainability and telecom at SRP