Arizona has more clear, sunny days than any other state in the West. In the summer months, sheets of mirage-casting heat waves pour down across expansive miles of desert. Yet for years this sunny state has lagged in developing its solar industry, relying instead on coal and nuclear power. Recently, though, that’s started to change.
Tucson Electric Power announced today that it is seeking bids for land to build a “utility scale” solar plant near Tucson, along with a few smaller installations that combined could power 727 homes, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Union Distributing Co. also recently announced plans to build solar plants in Tucson and Phoenix to generate up to 85 percent of its own energy. When completed, the combined sites “will rank as the third-largest privately-owned power plant in the state,” reported the Arizona Daily Star. Distributed solar is taking off as well, thanks to deregulation of residential solar installations in Mesa and Gilbert, where “American Solar Electric, one of the Valley’s largest installers, projects it will install 700 to 900 residential systems in 2009,” reported the Arizona Republic.
In July, the state legislature passed a bill meant to spur renewable energy manufacturing through tax credits and incentives. This should attract more manufacturing plants and jobs to Arizona instead of California or Oregon, both of which already have strong solar manufacturing industries and more attractive state incentives:
Federal incentives have helped boost Arizona’s solar industry, along with supportive legislation like the recent American Clean Energy and Security Act, which requires electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources by 2020.
All of this is good news for the state economy too, which has been struggling to balance the budget with a $3 billion revenue shortfall. And Arizona leads the nation in employment loss over the past 12 months, according to a Wall Street Journal blog.
Renewable energy manufacturing plants like solar would not only capitalize on the state’s abundant natural resource but provide important jobs and revenue to get Arizona back on track.
See HCN’s recent story on solar taking the place of timber in Washington.Graph from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.