Largest PV Plant in Arizona Benefits Schools

The largest solar photovoltaic (PV) facility in Arizona is open for business, and the first customers in line will be 100 area schools. The recently completed 20-megawatt (MW) Copper Crossing Solar Ranch is sited on 144 acres outside of Florence, Ariz., and consists of approximately 66,000 SunPower solar modules. The plant generates enough electricity to power approximately 3,700 area homes, and is expected to reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 575,000 metric tons over the next 25 years.

The schools, in 11 districts near Phoenix, are participating in public utility SRP’s new “Community Solar” program. Under this innovative program, each participating school district will purchase a total of 7,840 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar energy from the plant at a fixed price for 10 years. “This program offers an alternative to the traditional method of installing solar systems on rooftops and allows more schools to invest in clean energy,” said SRP General Manager Mark Bonsall. The program will also provide price certainty to budget-strapped school districts facing rising energy costs.

SunPower solar plant

image via SunPower

To help integrate the system into the schools’ curricula, SRP is giving participants access to solar educational materials and a web portal that provides data on the plant’s production. In addition, teachers who receive training are eligible for $350 grants from the utility that can be used to purchase hands-on materials to enhance student learning.

As the third-largest public power utility in the country, SRP serves more than 940,000 customers with electricity generated from renewable and nonrenewable resources. SRP is also the largest supplier of water in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Electricity delivered from the Copper Crossing Solar Ranch will support SRP’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires the utility to generate 20 percent of its retail electricity from renewable resources by 2020. This RPS is more aggressive than the state’s standard, requiring utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).