Tucson Electric Power (TEP) announced it is seeking bids from solar developers to design and construct a utility-scale community solar array in the Four Corners of Arizona, enabling it to purchase up to 100 megawatts of solar under a 20-year agreement. Expected to produce electricity for more than 21,000 homes and expand TEP’s community solar production by 40 percent, the solar array will tie into existing transmission infrastructure and become operational in early 2019.
“We’re working to provide more solar power for more customers for less money,” said Carmine Tilghman, Senior Director of Energy Supply and Renewable Energy. “This new solar facility will help us achieve our renewable energy goals while preserving safe, reliable and affordable service for our community.”
The proposed solar farm would create a huge increase in TEP’s renewable energy portfolio which currently has roughly 400 MWs of renewable energy. It anticipates adding an additional 800 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2030 reaching 1.2 GWs (1,200 MWs).
TEP is also requesting proposals from developers to construct and operate a new 100-megawatt wind-powered facility that would tie into its grid in the Four Corners region and wind-rich areas along the Arizona and New Mexico border. “Although we’ll primarily rely on solar energy to expand our renewable energy resources, the addition of new, cost-effective wind-powered resources would help to ensure reliability for our customers while further diversifying our renewable generation portfolio,” Tilghman said.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the cost of constructing utility sized community solar farms decreased by 12 percent in 2015 and rates for solar power through long-term contracts are a quarter of the price they were in 2010.
Community solar continues to grow in the sunny state of Arizona. Community solar projects not only benefit the environment but invite customers who do not have capital to invest in rooftop arrays or those who do not own property, such as renters, have access to renewable energy choices.
It’s one of the ways Arizona unities are trying to meet customer demands by providing solar services while still trying to fight net-metering and rooftop solar. Earlier this year, for instance, Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service filed to increase fees on residential rooftop solar rates by almost 8 percent. A proposal that drew harsh criticism from solar advocates throughout the state.