No Roof, No Problem For Arizona Solar Devotees

Not to be outdone by fellow Arizona utility Tucson Electric Power’s innovative Bright Tucson Solar Program, UniSource Energy Services (UES) is unveiling a new program that allows its electric customers to buy solar energy directly from two solar power plants recently constructed in Mohave County.

Starting this month, UES will sell the output of the combined 1.7-megawatt (MW) systems to customers through its new Bright Arizona Community Solar program. Energy produced by the arrays will be available to UES customers to purchase in 150 kilowatt-hour (kWh) “blocks” for $3 each, and the purchase will be added to participating customers’ monthly electric bills.

arizona community solar

image via Western Wind Energy

Initially, the program will sell 1,720 blocks of solar energy from two solar arrays: a 1.22-MW single-axis tracking PV array at La Senita Elementary School in Kingman, Ariz., (shown being installed above), and a 500-kilowatt (kW) solar array developed as part of Western Wind Energy’s wind and solar system southwest of Kingman. However, as the company plans to invest approximately $5 million this year in renewable energy systems, it says that additional blocks could become available as it expands.

The program is part of a recent trend in the expansion of municipally and utility-sponsored community solar programs, from Seattle to Virginia and Portland to San Diego. According to UES, programs like these are perfect for renters or property owners who do not have appropriate roof space, or anyone who wants the benefits of solar power without the up-front cost. The program will also help UES comply with Arizona’s renewable energy standard, which requires Arizona utilities to increase their use of renewable power each year until it represents 15 percent of their energy in 2025.

“While investing in your own rooftop solar power system is still a great option, the Bright Arizona Community Solar program offers an easy, affordable way to go green by essentially sharing solar arrays with other electric customers,” said Paul Bonavia, chairman and CEO of UES.

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).