Two Large PV Plants Planned for Arizona

There were two big solar announcements in Arizona this week that could bring 57 additional MW of PV capacity to the state.

The first piece of news comes from the utility Arizona Public Service, which signed contracts for two plants with a combined capacity of 37 MW. The facilities will be developed by the solar-services provider SunEdison.

The 17-megawatt Hyder solar plant and the 20-megawatt Chino Valley solar plant are part of APS’s AZ Sun program. Through this program, APS plans to develop 100 megawatts of utility-owned photovoltaic power plants using a procurement model where a third party builds the solar plant and APS takes ownership when it goes into commercial operation.

According to APS, with the two projects announced today, AZ Sun has 70 megawatts in development. APS’s other two AZ Sun projects, a 15-megawatt installation at Luke Air Force Base and an 18-megawatt project in Gila Bend, are both scheduled to come online in 2011.

Construction on the Hyder plant is expected to begin in June 2011, with an in-service date expected in the fourth quarter of 2011. Construction on the Chino Valley project is expected to start in the first quarter of 2012, with completion expected in the fourth quarter of 2012. Both facilities will use polycrystalline photovoltaic panels mounted on single-axis tracking systems.

The other piece of news comes from SunPower and Iberdrola Renewables, which have signed an agreement to build a 20-MW capacity plant in Pinal County.

Iberdrola will develop, own and operate the plant; SunPower will provide an integrated package of modules, trackers and cabling for utility-scale applications. Although no specific timeframe was given, the plant is expected to be finished sometime in 2011.

While large-scale solar continues to pick up steam in the U.S., there are fears that far fewer facilities like this won’t get developed in 2011 because of the expiring Treasury Grant Program. The program, created under the stimulus package, has allowed companies to more easily find financing for projects. However, it expires at the end of the year. Although there is still an investment tax credit for the solar industry, the tax equity market remains soft.

Trade groups like the Solar Energy Industries Association and the American Wind Energy Association are working overtime to get an extension in a tax bill currently before Congress.

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