At a time when market forces are shifting and reports of unrest and uncertainty in the solar industry are raging in Arizona, a local start up company has partnered with Arizona’s largest utility, APS, to deliver a project for the state’s most prominent and voracious consumer of solar energy, Arizona State University. But this time, the projects are as much about transforming space as they are about transforming electric power generation.
At a Grand Opening event this week, Arizona State University has announced the arrival of two new PowerParasol projects to its Tempe Campus – one at the center of the campus at the Memorial Union, and a second at a prominent entrance to the campus at Gammage Auditorium.
These projects, unlike many more traditional rooftop solar installations, are meant to be seen and enjoyed. In each case, they change the nature of the space beneath them to enhance the experience on the ground.
“It’s not that the energy is unimportant,” said Bob Boscamp, President of Strategic Solar, “but what makes PowerParasol special are the other things it does. It provides shade but allows sunlight to come through, so plants grow and garden areas thrive. At night it provides lighting that can be ordinary or extraordinary, as we have done at Gammage and the MU.”
PowerParasol projects, created in part by DeBartolo architects, are unique to the spaces where they are deployed. At 25-feet, they are higher than a traditional carport or canopy solar installation. The construction elements include opportunities to do advertising and promotional signage, or to make significant additional architectural statements, which is what occurred with both the Gammage and Memorial Union projects.
“The MU is our campus community center, it’s where students, staff and visitors congregate, but for many months out of the year, the Arizona sun creates an environment that is not very friendly,” said John Riley, ASU’s Sustainability Operations Officer. As we all know from living here, if you can find shade it makes a world of difference. The PowerParasol not only does that, but in our project it also provides lighting and elements that enable us to really put this space to use for our students and the public.”
At Gammage, the PowerParasol project is deployed in a wide median that runs along two single-lane roadways that enter and exit the campus, and that take visitors to the Gammage Auditorium parking lot. The project was designed to create an inviting entry with unique lighting features and signage opportunities for Gammage performances and events on campus.
The PowerParasol at the Memorial Union consists of three PowerParasol structures and covers nearly an acre of land from the MU to Hayden Library, including the popular Cady Fountain. It utilizes 1,380 photovoltaic solar panels and produces 397 kW DC. PowerParasol at Gammage is the larger project with 1,716 photovoltaic solar panels on two PowerParasol structures. It produces 494 kW DC. Arizona-based construction company Hardison/Downey, who has served on every PowerParasol construction job, handled both projects.
While the creative drive and demand came from ASU and the PowerParasol team, it took the energy of APS to make it happen.
“The fact is, these projects never happen without APS in this partnership,” said Bob Boscamp. “We are a small company with a big idea and it is not lost on us that we need help from other smart people – you can’t find better, smarter people than at ASU and APS. “
APS is the primary energy supplier for Arizona State University and was the energy sponsor of the two PowerParasol projects. Not only did the company provide an incentive award, APS provided interconnection to the grid and helped support the logistics of project deployment.
“We are delighted to be a partner in these new projects at ASU,” said (name) of APS. “Renewable energy resources are an important part of our long-term generation plans and we are especially interested in innovative new technologies that have practical application and are the product of quality companies like Strategic Solar Energy. The PowerParasol is a game-changer and we are excited about where this can go from here.”
The new projects both utilize panels provided by JA Solar.
“Renewable energy resources are an important part of our long-term generation plans,” said Marc Romito, APS manager of Renewable Energy. “We are especially interested in innovative new technologies that have practical application. The PowerParasol is a game changer and we are excited about where this can go from here.”
Arizona State University now has three PowerParasol projects. The first was deployed in Lot 59 adjacent to Sun Devil Stadium and is used for tailgating before and after games, and for shaded parking for students.