Bright sunshiny day


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.
Solar Sprawl
Nolan Patrick Veesart
Nolan Patrick Veesart
Sep 15, 2009 05:38 PM
If the goal is to create jobs, then building large-scale solar might do that in the short-term (though Distributed Generation would create more jobs in the long term). But if the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, "solar sprawl" will impact more natural land and habitat without any reduction unless Arizona is planning to retire coal plants as solar comes online. As far as I know, nobody is proposing to do that. We are re-arranging the deck chairs while the ship goes down instead of manning the pumps. In fact, one could even say that we are drilling more holes in the hull.
?Solar sprawl
Alan Gregory
Alan Gregory
Sep 16, 2009 12:42 PM
I've thought this since the first wind-power farm went up here in N.E. Pa. I have to to read or hear of a coal-fired power plant anywhere being shuttered because its output was replaced by solar or wind. To the contrary. Such renewable energy sources are good in terms of our climate, but each is simply giving greedy developers chances to advertise their "greenness" while destroying and fragmenting more wildlife habitat. In Pa. the best place to put a wind farm is on top of a ridge. Well, the best remaining intact and un-fragmented wildlife habitat in the state is the ridgetop forest. Yet wind farms and their associated footprint destroy and fragment on-the-ground habitat. There is probably not a single place in the Keystone State where one can get more than a mile - one mile - from the nearest road. Pretty sad. So much for wildness.
Sep 16, 2009 09:03 PM
While it is true that an overhaul of our energy policy is necesary for alternative sources of energy to replace coal generated power, another alternative is possible. Solar sprawl is correct about wind and solar power fragmenting habitats. But why don't we try intergrating solar panels into the landscape? Reptiles in particular are cold-blooded, so solar panels could be placed on their backs to collect energy when they sun themselves. Should that fail, Arizona can always rely on the sunny disposition of its residents.