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SRP to partner with university on 1-MW solar plant


From the January 19, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published January 19, 2012

The Salt River Project, Arizona State University and SunPower Corp. said Jan. 11 they have reached an agreement to build a 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant at ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, Ariz. The 1-megawatt facility will be the first commercial deployment of SunPower® C7 Tracker technology, a system that concentrates the sun’s power seven times and is designed to achieve the lowest levelized cost of electricity for solar power plants available today, said SRP and its partners.

SunPower will construct the plant on the southeast corner of the ASU Polytechnic campus, and will operate and maintain it. Under a purchase-power agreement, SRP will buy the entire output of the solar plant from SunPower. In a separate agreement, ASU will purchase all of the energy attributable to the plant for use at its Polytechnic campus. Construction of the plant is contingent on a number of factors, including receipt of all applicable permits.

"As we continue to add resources to our sustainable portfolio, SRP is very interested in finding new low-cost and efficient renewable-energy technologies that can help keep our customers’ prices low," said John Sullivan, SRP’s chief resource executive. "SunPower’s C7 Tracker System is the type of promising technology that can provide both benefits."

The tracker combines single-axis tracking technology with rows of parabolic mirrors, reflecting light onto 22.8%-efficient SunPower Maxeon™ solar cells, the world’s most efficient large-area solar cells, said SRP and its partners. Using mirrors to reduce the number of solar cells required to generate electricity will lower the levelized cost of electricity by up to 20%, compared to competing technologies, they said.

The ASU solar plant will be the third commercial-scale solar facility in the Valley of the Sun to provide energy for SRP. Recently, the Arizona utility reached an agreement to purchase the output of a 19-MW solar photovoltaic plant in Queen Creek. Copper Crossing – a 20-MW facility located in Pinal County and designed and built by SunPower – began providing energy for SRP’s Community Solar program last year. More than 100 schools in 11 school districts in the region are tapping into the power of the sun from that plant to offset a portion of their electric needs through the program, SRP said. Community Solar is also open to residential customers, allowing customers to invest in solar energy without the upfront costs or maintenance of a rooftop system.

The SRP board of directors has set a goal to meet 20% of SRP’s retail electricity requirements through sustainable resources by the year 2020. For the most recent fiscal year, SRP exceeded the 5% goal, providing about 9% of retail energy needs with sustainable resources including wind, solar and geothermal energy; hydro power and conservation; and energy-efficiency measures.

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