The final steps Tempe took to complete a solar project are part of a larger plan to make the city more sustainable while emphasizing green technology.
On March 14, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell placed the final panel on the city’s largest solar project, South Water Treatment Plant. The plant contains 3,000 solar panels that are anticipated to provide 15 percent of the energy used by the plant. The project was created in partnership with city of Tempe, SRP, and Solar City.
“Water plants use a lot of energy to do what they do,” said spokesperson Amanda Nelson of Tempe’s sustainability programs.
Annually, this project will reduce the water plant’s carbon emissions by 1,130 metric tons, which is comparable to removing about 235 cars from the roads each year. That is an important step in the city’s commitment to sustainability, as the city expects to save more than $25,500 in utility costs during the first year and anticipates a savings of $2.3 million over a 20-year span.
Nelson said this will help keep costs down and keep rates as low as possible for residents, but there is not a direct connection for consumers to notice a difference in their utility bills.
“This is a great opportunity for the city and a really good partnership to be able to provide renewable energy and offset our energy cost and energy consumption,” she said.
Patty Garcia-Likens, spokesperson for Salt River Project, said the company is “always looking for ways to partner with our customers.” The customers are everyone from residential customers wanting to install rooftop solar panels to businesses who want to offset their energy bill or cities looking to save taxpayer money on energy usage.
“It’s always an exciting thing for us to be able to partner with entities like that,” she said.
Larry Marchman from Solar City said the company has done quite a bit of work for the state of Arizona, including Phoenix, Chandler and Mesa, in which it has installed solar panels at carports, city hall and other facilities “in the works.” Solar City has installed four systems for the Tempe Elementary School District.
Tempe will continue to implement more throughout the city over the next few years. This is the first in a series of three planned city facility locations. Future projects include a 250-kilowatt facility at Tempe’s downtown police/courts building, as well as a 900-kilowatt facility at the city’s Johnny G. Martinez Water Treatment Plant.
The second project on the building had their first pre-construction meeting April 30. After the plan review process with the community development department and its approval, the date will be finalized and the project will move forward. Nelson said the solar panels are expected to break ground on the roof of the building in July 2014.
• Brittney Daigneau is a junior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.