Solar Power Coming To Arizona State Lands

There’s a whole lot of sun in the state of Arizona, which, incidentally, is composed largely of public lands. Which is why it’s good to hear that Arizona’s State Land Department and Arizona Public Service (APS) are working together to establish the first-ever solar project on Arizona State Trust lands.

Toward that end, nearly 400 acres in Yuma County will soon be home to the 35-megawatt (MW) APS Foothills Solar Plant. The utility will pitch in $10 million for the 35-year lease on the location, which will go primarily to help fund Arizona public education.

arizona solar aps

image via Arizona Public Service

The plant will be APS’s fifth and largest AZ Sun Program [PDF] project to date, generating enough electricity to power 8,750 Arizona homes. All the juice produced by this facility will go to power local Yuma homes and businesses.

The site for the APS Foothills plant was decided after some deliberation on the part of the State Land Department, which said it did extensive legwork to identify State Trust land sites suitable for solar development. After selecting a handful of such sites, State Land Commissioner Maria Baier approached APS about building a solar plant, which led to an independent assessment by APS to determine the most suitable development location for its next solar plant. The winner, at the end of the day, was Yuma.

The plant will break ground in August of this year and is expected to create 100 construction jobs. The plan is for the plant to come online in two phases, with the first 17 MW reaching commercial operation by March 2013 and the remaining 18 MW in commercial operation by December 2013. APS has contracted with Atlanta, Ga.-based AMEC on the facility’s construction.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer noted, in a statement, that the project is “the first of many solar projects that will benefit the entire state and cement our status as the ‘Solar King.’”

While this will be the first project on State Trust lands, late last year the Obama administration approved the Sonoran Solar Energy Project southwest of Phoenix. This 300-MW PV project, proposed by NextEra Energy Resources, was the first utility-scale solar project on federal lands in Arizona to gain approval.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.