Tag Archives: solar

energy supply - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

First Solar Builds Highest Efficiency Thin Film PV Cell

First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) today announced it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) research cell conversion efficiency, achieving 21.0 percent efficiency certified at the Newport Corporation’s Technology and Applications Center (TAC) PV Lab. The record-setting cell was constructed at the company’s Perrysburg, Ohio manufacturing factory and Research & Development Center, using processes and materials designed for commercial-scale manufacturing.

The record has been documented in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) “Best Research Cell Efficiencies” reference chart.

This certified result bests the previous CdTe record of 20.4 percent conversion efficiency, which was set by First Solar in February of 2014, and represents the seventh substantial update to CdTe record efficiency since 2011. The achievement also places First Solar’s CdTe research cell efficiency above copper indium gallium diselenide based solar cells (CIGS) at 20.9 percent, and well above multicrystalline silicon (mSi), which peaked at 20.4 percent in 2004.

“We have just begun to reveal the true unrealized potential of CdTe PV,” said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “Our Advanced Research team continues to deliver extraordinary results by creating practical devices capable of commercial scale production. Not only have we have now demonstrated the highest single junction thin film cell on record, but just as important, our record cells are based on the same scalable manufacturing processes and commodity materials that we have proven through years of volume production.”

Garabedian noted that while competing technologies are using increasingly costly materials and cell processes in order to deliver moderate performance gains, First Solar is establishing a rapid path to industry-leading energy densities, while simultaneously improving manufacturing metrics.

“Our significant investment in development of CdTe thin-film technology has enabled a rapid rate of improvement and gives us tremendous confidence in the future,” said Markus Gloeckler, First Solar Vice President for Advanced Research. “We have made outstanding improvements in all aspects of our thin-film solar cells and are aggressively pursuing the commercialization of these advanced technologies in our product.”

At an analyst briefing last March, First Solar presented a technology roadmap anticipating a 22 percent research cell efficiency milestone in 2015. Today’s announcement indicates First Solar is steadily tracking to achieve that goal ahead of schedule.

First Solar has continued to transfer its success in the R&D lab into its commercially produced modules, increasing its average production module efficiency to 14.0 percent in the second quarter of 2014, up 0.5 percent from the first quarter of the year, and up 0.7 percent from FY2013. The company’s lead line was producing modules with 14.1 percent average efficiency at the end of the second quarter of 2014.

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APS names McCarthy Supplier of the Year

McCarthy Building Companies was recently recognized by APS as an outstanding business partner at the 2014 APS Supplier of the Year Awards. In total, six companies were selected representing various supply chain-managed categories. McCarthy was recognized in the “Major Projects” category.

McCarthy was selected out of more than 4,000 different APS suppliers through a nomination process led by APS employees. The nominees were evaluated on their support of APS’s values such as commitment to sustainability, active involvement in the community and a focus on health, safety and environmental concerns. Companies were also assessed on customer service and overall performance.

“Our business partners are a vital resource in helping us provide safe and affordable energy for our customers,” said Barbara Gomez, APS Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer. “APS selected McCarthy and five other companies out of thousands of suppliers not only for their outstanding customer service and ongoing commitment to our company’s core values, but also for setting an example that we hope other suppliers will emulate.”

Earlier this year, McCarthy completed the installation of a large-scale 14-megawatt (MW) solar project in Yuma County called Hyder II for APS, which owns and operates the plant. In addition to Hyder II, McCarthy also completed the 18-MW APS Cotton Center Solar Station in Gila Bend, Ariz., and the 20-MW APS Chino Valley Solar Plant in Chino Valley, Ariz.

“We’ve been fortunate to work on three large-scale solar projects with APS, which is rapidly expanding its solar portfolio and solar leadership in the state,” said Scott Canada, Director of the Renewable Energy team at McCarthy Building Companies. “Our system engineering and construction expertise has helped APS harness the power of the sun and turn it into clean, renewable energy. We are honored to be recognized for our efforts by APS.”

To date, McCarthy Building Companies’ Renewable Energy team, based in Phoenix, has completed several large-scale solar installations across the desert Southwest representing a combined capacity of more than 70 MW of solar energy production. The division was named to Solar Power World’s Top 250 solar contractors list (rank #23) in September 2013.

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APS Seeks Renewable Energy Projects from Solar

Arizona Public Service Co. announces a Request for Proposal (RFP) from solar developers and installers to construct two 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic facilities – financed by APS through the company’s AZ Sun Program.

The RFP began on June 16, and interested parties are encouraged to participate in a bidder’s webinar on June 23. Additional information about the webinar and the RFP is available online at aps.com/rfp.

Projects must utilize commercially proven technology. When completed in 2015, the new solar facilities – one located on Luke Air Force Base and the other to be built in partnership with the City of Phoenix – will be owned and operated by APS. These facilities will join seven other AZ Sun Projects that are already online or under construction, totaling 170 MW of solar energy for Arizona – enough to power more than 42,000 APS customers.

With the AZ Sun Program, APS is investing in the development of solar photovoltaic power plants across Arizona. The program allows APS to partner with third-party developers and equipment providers to design and construct the facilities, which increase the opportunity for more developers to participate since project financing is provided by APS.

APS, Arizona’s largest and longest-serving electricity utility, serves nearly 1.2 million customers in 11 of the state’s 15 counties. With headquarters in Phoenix, APS is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (NYSE: PNW).

APS Hyder II solar power plant located in Hyder, Arizona.

Green development stays sunny side up

Debates over energy consumption, reduction and alternatives occur frequently in the increasingly “green” world. Arizona stands as a leader in the alternative energy market with the use of solar, geothermal energy and natural gas as alternatives to more traditional energy providers. Even through the decline of green building projects, as reported by Forbes, major companies and builders such as APS, SRP and Adolfson & Peterson (A&P) have completed large alternative energy projects in the last year.

Arizona Public Service, through the APS AZ Sun Program, and McCarthy Building Companies completed its third solar project, a large solar installation called the Hyder II in Yuma County last year. It uses more than 71,000 single-axis tracking photovoltaic panels to generate 14 megawatts of solar energy, which is enough to serve 3,500 Arizona homes. The project set a record year for APS with 410 megawatts of solar power and represented the largest annual increase in solar capacity, nearly tripling the total from 2012. APS contains more than 750 megawatts of solar capacity on its system after investing nearly $1B in solar projects, and serves more than 185,000 Arizona homes. Another large solar project built last year is the Fry’s Marketplace PowerParasol, which shades 74,800 SF, including 220 parking spaces, driveways, aisles, grocery cart stations and sidewalks. It diminishes the heat-island effect, enables light passage to allow the growth of plants and generates 1,013,140 kilowatt hours of solar energy.
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Geothermal energy is another popular source of renewable energy in Arizona. Both SRP and A&P developed geothermal projects in 2013. Geothermal energy produces electricity from naturally occurring geothermal fluid, and steam forms when production wells access superheated water reservoirs thousands of feet beneath the Earth’s surface. As opposed to wind and solar that are affected by the weather, geothermal is a more reliable source of renewable energy. SRP purchased 50 megawatts of geothermal energy from CalEnergy. The project will annually offset 460 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of 40,000 cars. SRP also has an agreement to purchase geothermal energy from the Hudson Ranch facility in California and Utah’s Cove Fort plant.

A&P’s latest geothermal project is Lookout Mountain Elementary School where it constructed a closed-loop system that allows the ground’s heat to warm the building during the winter and reverse the process in the summer by transferring heat back into the ground. The system does not use any chemicals, untreated water or Freon. A&P expect it to last up to 30 years and the underground wells to last up to 75 years. The classrooms’ energy consumption will be reduced by 40 percent and the low maintenance and operations costs will save the school district up to $1.8M over the next 20 years.

Although there are many green projects occurring, there is a decline in contracts. Bryan Dunn, senior vice president of A&P, states that “the disconnect between the demand and not seeing as many ‘green contracts’ is that there are more and more building owners viewing a formal certification process as expensive and lengthy. Tight budgets don’t allow for the upfront costs associated with a formal green certification. Instead, they are looking to incorporate the energy saving and durability aspects of green building into their projects without a formal certification of the building.”

Dunn also says solar technology may be played out. He is seeing trends with technology, such as waste-to-energy, bio-mass and bio-gas and geothermal energy. “Clients are considering several types of alternative technologies on single projects…Utilizing multiple solutions also keeps overall and total project costs down, benefiting everyone in the long run,” he adds.

Besides the cost of green projects, Scott Canada from McCarthy explains that projects may be slowing because of supply and demand. “There may be a near-term slowing of new projects while Arizona’s energy consumption begins to grow again, with the improving economy. Energy, including renewables, often cycles between a period of expansion and pause,” he says, adding that solar costs are continuing to drop, making it an attractive energy source, especially with the abundance of sunshine in Arizona. In its latest forecast, APS predicts renewable energy, gas in particular, will double in Arizona by 2029.

Clean Energy

OneRoof Energy Expands Phoenix Call Center

OneRoof Energy, Inc., a complete solar services provider and subsidiary of OneRoof Energy Group, Inc., announced today that it plans to triple its existing call center from 40 full time employees to 120 full time employees, adding 80 jobs to the Phoenix market over the next twelve months. The call center expansion is necessary to provide support for the company’s growing direct sales force launched in 2013 and comes amid rapid market expansion, including the company’s entry into the Massachusetts market earlier this month. The center will also provide support for new channel alliances currently under development including retail energy partnerships.

“With a number of reputable call center training institutes in the area, Phoenix is a hot bed for call center expertise. It is also a mature solar market and that is an ideal combination for us,” states Nick Hofer, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at OneRoof Energy. “We are committed to providing the best customer experience in the industry and the call center will play a critical role in realizing that goal.”

Arizona remains one of the top three residential solar states in the nation. The residential market saw 72.7 MW installed in 2013, up 17% year-over-year despite a reduction in rebate funding to $0.10/W and a hotly contested regulatory battle over adjustments to Net Energy Metering (NEM).

“The Phoenix metro area has one of the largest call center workforces in the U.S., offering trained agents with excellent call center skills,” said King White, president of Site Selection Group, LLC. – a leading business location advisory firm. “With its expansion, OneRoof Energy is poised to be a leader in customer care in the residential solar market nationally.”

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ASU opens 2 more PowerParasols

In order to line up more with Arizona State University’s goals of being carbon neutral on campus by 2025, the New American University has teamed up with start-up company, Strategic Solar, and has opened up two more PowerParasols on campus.

Morgan R. Olsen, executive vice president, treasurer and CFO at ASU, said that these projects are extremely helpful and important to ASU’s goal of being carbon neutral and a leader of universities in cutting the impact that these institutions have on the environment.

ASU’s partnership with Strategic Solar began when they first built one of the PowerParasols, which have photovoltaic solar panels and supplies great shade for the community, at Lot 59, a popular tailgating spot for Sun Devil fans. Now, two more of these structures were built, one PowerParasol was erected outside of ASU’s Memorial Union and the other was built at a major entrance onto campus at Gammage Auditorium.

“The PowerParasols created an area we can enjoy 12 months out of the year,” Olsen said. They also generate sustainable energy for the campus and add to the 25 megawatts of solar energy that ASU hosts across four campuses, Olsen said.

Since 2007, ASU has cut its green house emissions by 36 percent per student, while enrollment has increased by 33 percent, Olsen said. “We’re growing and we’ve achieved these great metrics,” Olsen said.

The PowerParasol at Memorial Union has 1,380 photovoltaic solar panels, which produce 397 kilowatts, and the PowerParasol at Gammage is a little larger with 1,716 panels on two different structures and it produces 494 kilowatts.

These structures aren’t only great at supplying shade during the day, but at night they have luminous lights that create a beautiful friendly environment.

JA Solar supplied all of the panels that were used for these projects. APS community Relations Manager Michelle Gettinger congratulated ASU and PowerParasol with this brand new innovative and green structure.

Bob Boscamp, president of Strategic Solar, said that ASU was the first to partner and share the vision of installing PowerParasols. The PowerParasols are patent pending Boscamp said and he hopes to open up more at ASU and across the nation.

Olsen said that this is one of many of ASU’s projects that are being done to help minimalize the impact that Universities have on the environment. Zero waste initiatives have been enacted, across the campus there are multiple recycling bins for students to utilize and whenever the school receives boxes from shipments ASU sends them back.

Also, at the recent Pat’s Run, ASU had crews making sure what was recyclable at the event was recycled and anything that was organic trash went to proper biomass facilities Olsen said.

NASA Star Vista

ASU engages with NASA’s Solar Research Institute

Arizona State University Foundation Professor Kip Hodges is co-investigator and ASU principal investigator for a node of the new NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). SSERVI brings nine teams of researchers from NASA laboratories, universities, research institutions, and commercial enterprises together in a collaborative virtual setting to focus on questions concerning planetary science and human space exploration in the inner Solar System.

Through Hodges participation, ASU is affiliated with “Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration” team that is led by Jennifer Heldmann of NASA’s Ames Research Center. Other nodes of the virtual institute are based at Brown University, the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, the Lunar and Planetary Institute (Houston, Texas), NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, the Southwest Research Institute (Boulder, Colo.), Stony Brook University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Colorado. All together, the new virtual institute embraces the research of nearly 200 scientists nationwide, providing them with a total of roughly $12 million per year over the next five years.

“I’m very pleased that, through Jen’s leadership, the NASA Ames node was selected to be an inaugural part of SSERVI”, said Hodges. “I think we have assembled a great team of researchers that cross the boundaries between planetary science and the engineering and implementation of new technologies to enhance our ability to do science on other worlds.”

In addition to researchers from the Ames Research Center and ASU, the NASA Ames team includes participants from: the BAER Institute; the Canadian Space Agency; Cornell University; Evergreen Valley College; Honeybee Robotics; Idaho State University; the Korean Institute of Geoscience & Mineral Resources; Los Gatos Research; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Purdue University; the SETI Institute; Studio 98; the University of Toronto; the University of Western Ontario; Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering; and NASA’s Goddard, Johnson, Kennedy, and Marshall Space Flight Centers.

The NASA Ames team will focus on the development of innovative strategies for scientific research on asteroids, the Moon, and the moons of Mars – as well as on samples returned from those bodies – through studies of planetary analog sites on Earth. Hodges notes that it is important to establish best practices for human and robotic exploration of space prior to the launch of real missions so that we can maximize the quality and quantity of science that can be done at our exploration targets.

“By studying geologic features on Earth that are similar to those we will encounter on other bodies, we better prepare ourselves for future explorations.” The NASA Ames node will be conducting such studies on volcanic landscapes in Idaho and at meteorite impact craters in northern Canada.

Hodges was recruited for participation in SSERVI as a consequence of his research group’s work on determining the ages of impact events on Earth and the Moon.

“On coming to ASU in 2006, it was one of my goals to establish a world-class center for noble gas geochronology and geochemistry in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Thanks to investments by ASU, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, the laboratory my research group has worked hard to put together enables some very creative work, including our pioneering use of laser microprobe technologies for dating impact events”, Hodges says.

Recent work of this kind has focused on a variety of terrestrial impact sites and on lunar impact rocks brought back during the Apollo 16 and 17 missions. Many members of Hodges’ research group – research scientists Mathijs van Soest and Jo Anne Wartho, postdoctoral associates Marc Biren, Frances Cooper, and John Weirich, and graduate students Cameron Mercer and Kelsey Young – have contributed to building the laboratory’s reputation as a leading facility for impact dating.

“Our participation in the work of the NASA Ames node of SSERVI permits us to expand our work on terrestrial impact sites in a way that will feed forward into future studies of samples returned from exploration targets like near-Earth asteroids, our Moon and the moons of nearby planets, or Mars. We are excited to be part of such a great effort, and look forward to helping NASA write the next chapter in the history of space exploration,” states Hodges.

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ACC issues residential solar recommendations

The Arizona Corporation Commission staff issued its highly anticipated recommendations in response to APS’s proposed rule changes directed at residential solar customers. ACC recommended that the Commission not approve either of APS’s proposed Net Metering cost-shift solutions.

Net Metering is the mechanism that allows residential customers the right to offset energy purchases from the utility with self-generation on a one-to-one basis.

The ACC staff proposals, like those from APS, are only recommendations. Any changes to the existing rules must be voted on by the Arizona Corporation Commissioners. The Commissioners are scheduled to take up the issue at its Oct. 16 and 17 hearing.

ACC staff further recommended that should any changes be granted, existing rooftop solar customers should be grandfathered under the old rules, and that those rules should apply to the rooftop equipment and premises where the equipment is installed. In other words, the net metering rules should “run with the land,” versus being a “right” that resides with a specific customer.

Although ACC staff recommended that no changes be made at this time, it did suggest that this issue be evaluated during APS’s next rate case. They said it was their belief that any cost-shift issue created by Net Metering is fundamentally a matter of rate design and that the appropriate time for designing rates that equitably allocate the costs and benefits of Net Metering is during APS’s next general rate case.

ACC staff further recommended that the Commission hold workshops with all stakeholders to help inform future Commission policy on the value that Distributed Generation (rooftop solar) installations bring to the grid. In addition, Staff recommended that within the workshops, the Commission investigate the currently non-monetized benefits of Distributed Generation with the goal of developing a methodology for assigning a values to the non-energy benefits of rooftop solar.

ACC staff believes this recommended course of action is the most effective and appropriate method of dealing with the Net Metering cost-shift issue APS outlined in its July 12 filing. However, since it is not yet clear whether the Commission will decide to deal with this issue immediately, staff offered two alternative recommendations as bridge solutions in an effort to at least begin gradually addressing the Net Metering cost-shift issue until the matter can be more comprehensively resolved in a future general rate case.

The first interim proposal is a Lost Fixed Cost Recovery (LFCR) Flat Charge provision for all new APS solar rooftop customers, unless the customers choose the ETC-2 rate which relies on a demand-based charge to partially collect fixed costs. The LFCR is designed to recover a portion of costs arising from transmission and distribution, and other miscellaneous fixed costs.

The recommendation would have new solar customers pay into the LFCR account at a flat rate, thereby reducing the impact on non-solar customers. The estimated impact of this flat charge would amount to an estimated monthly increase between $2 and $3 for new solar customers compared to the $50 to $100 a month charge under APS’s proposal.

ACC staff’s recommendation also included a second alternative in the event the Commissioners wanted to implement an immediate rule change before the next rate case, proposing a Distributed Generation (DG) Premium could be implemented on a gradual basis so as to minimize the immediate impact on future solar customers. The proposal said this could be done by initially setting the DG Premium at $2.75/kW. The DG Premium would be the cap for the monthly charge under this alternative. The Commission could lower or increase the DG Premium annually based on the effect it has on new solar installations. The Commission could also adopt an approach wherein the DG Premium is initially set at a lower amount than that recommended by Staff, and phased-in over a period of years.

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Arizona Solar Firms form advocacy group

Five Arizona-based solar energy companies are joining forces to establish a nonprofit group to advocate for solar users and educate the community on the importance of continued investment in solar technologies.

Known as the Arizona Solar Deployment Alliance (ASDA), the newly formed organization is dedicated to providing accurate and timely information to the public and working on behalf of Arizona homeowners and businesses on issues related to the advancement of solar energy.

ASDA was formed by American Solar, Arizona Solar Concepts, Harmon Solar, Sun Valley Solar Solutions and Technicians for Sustainability, all Arizona-based companies who committed early-on to work with homeowners and businesses to make rooftop solar energy a reality in the State of Arizona. Incorporated as an Arizona non-profit, ASDA will provide up-to-date, reliable data to inform and educate solar users and solar interests on important issues related to the industry and changes in public policy.

Groups that claim to be pro-consumer are popping up statewide as the issue of solar energy becomes a more popular topic. These efforts, however, are only making it more difficult for the public to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to solar energy.

“The cost of solar energy is at an all-time low. Homeowners and businesses can easily make the choice to go solar and it is especially critical they have facts and solid information – not noise or conjecture – before making such a decision and as they continue to use solar into the future.” said Sean Seitz, president of ASDA. “We believe solar is here to stay. It is a low-cost, long term solution to our state’s growing power needs and is quickly becoming part of Arizona’s diverse energy portfolio, alongside wind, hydro, nuclear, gas and coal. Our mission is to support an educated decision-making process and that means ensuring those making the decision are not swayed by the landslide of misinformation and distraction that is out there.”

Arizona’s solar industry is also critical to the state’s economic development prospects, as it provides jobs in the fields of engineering, manufacturing, construction and a variety of other related skill sets, many of which pay well and provide a good standard of living for families. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Careers in Solar Power, 2011)

For more information and to stay up to date on ASDA’s activities, visit www.arizonasda.org.

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APS proposes changing solar rates

A proposed rate change for Arizona Public Service Co. customers who install rooftop solar panels could affect the future of the state’s solar industry.

The utility is proposing to give customers with new solar panel systems less credit for the electricity their systems supply to the power grid under a proposal pending before the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The proposal would drop the rate of return by as much as 40 percent, but the utility says new customers would also be offered some incentives.

The utility says the change is needed because solar customers are not paying enough for the services they get when their panels are not producing electricity.

Greg Field of Arizona Solar Concepts says if the commission approves the proposed changes to the utility’s net metering program, it will destroy the state’s solar industry.

 

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3 renewable energy projects approved

The Interior Department has approved three renewable energy projects in Nevada and Arizona that officials say will generate enough electricity to power nearly 200,000 homes. The projects are the first renewable energy projects on public lands approved by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell since she took office in April.

The projects will deliver a combined 520 megawatts to the electricity grid through solar plants in Nevada and Arizona and a geothermal plant in Nevada.

The 350-megawatt Midland Solar Energy Project is near Boulder City, Nev., while the 100-megawatt Quartzsite solar project is near Quartzsite. The 70-megawatt New York Canyon Geothermal Project is in Pershing County near Lovelock, Nev.

Interior has approved 45 utility-scale renewable energy projects since 2009, including 25 solar sites, 9 wind farms and 11 geothermal plants.

energy supply - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

Solar Energy Powers Aspire Kids Sports Center

As the sounds of kids jumping, tumbling and somersaulting echo through the Aspire Kids Sports Center in Chandler, solar panels silently soak in the sun on the roof of the 32,000-square-foot facility.

With the help of incentives from the SRP EarthWise Solar Program, owners Scott and Dona Barclay have invested in the 100-kilowatt system, which will provide approximately half of the center’s electricity needs.

“We have had it in our plans to put solar on our building since we built Aspire,” said Scott Barclay. “We feel living in Arizona, it makes sense to utilize the God-given resources provided by the sun. We have had solar water heating on our own home since the 1980s. The technology has now advanced to make it more affordable, so we decided now was the time to act.”

The facility is equipped with state-of-the-art gymnastics equipment, a heated indoor swimming pool, dance and martial arts room and a preschool gym. It is also the home and training center of the ASU men’s gymnastics team.

“Aspire is another example of business owners who are making investments in the future of environmentally, emission-free, renewable energy,” said Lori Singleton, director of SRP Program Operations.

For more information about the SRP EarthWise Energy Solar Program, visit www.srpnet.com/solar.

Solar Plane

Solar-powered airplane stopping in Phoenix

A solar-powered plane set to embark on a multi-city trip across the United States is scheduled to depart Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., on May 1, weather permitting. These are the cities, in order, of where the plane would stop for about 10 days and the distances between their airports:

1. From Mountain View, Calif. (early May)

2. To Phoenix (mid-May, 625 miles)

3. To Dallas-Fort Worth (early June, 873 miles)

4. By mid-June: 558 miles to St. Louis or 630 miles to Nashville, Tenn., or 735 miles to Atlanta

5. To Washington, D.C. (early July, 542 miles from Atlanta)

6. To New York (July, 204 miles)

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Arizona ranked No. 2 in solar for 2012

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012, an analysis of solar power markets in the United States.

With another record-breaking year, solar is the fastest growing energy source in the country, powering homes, businesses and utility grids across the nation. The Solar Market Insight annual edition shows the United States installed 3,313 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012, a record for the industry. Perhaps most importantly, clean, reliable, affordable solar is continuing a major growth pattern that has made it a leading source of new electricity for America that’s increasingly competitive with conventional electricity across dozens of states today.

Even with the cost of solar falling for consumers, the market size of the U.S. solar industry grew 34% from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012 — not counting billions of dollars in other economic benefits across states and communities.  As of the end of 2012, there were 7,221 MW of PV and 546 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) online in the United States, enough to power 1.2 million homes.

At the state level, 2012 was another year for breaking records. California became the first state to install over 1,000 MW in one year, with growth across all market segments. Arizona came in as the second largest market, led by large-scale utility installations, while New Jersey experienced growth in the state’s non-residential market. The Top 10 largest state solar markets based on megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) installed in 2012 were:

1. California, 1,033
2. Arizona, 710
3. New Jersey, 415
4. Nevada, 198
5. North Carolina, 132
6. Massachusetts, 129
7. Hawaii, 109
8. Maryland, 74
9. Texas, 64
10. New York, 60

In addition to record annual installations, the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2012 shattered all-time quarterly records as well, with 1,300 MW of installed PV, besting the previous high by 64%. The residential and utility segments had their best quarters ever, installing 144 MW and 874 MW respectively.

The residential market saw meaningful growth in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, as average residential system prices dropped nearly 20 percent in one year — from $6.16 per watt in Q4 2011 to $5.04 per watt in Q4 2012. SEIA and GTM Research expect residential solar to surge in 2013 and beyond, as third-party solar financing options spread across the country.

The non-residential segment, which includes commercial, governmental, and non-profit systems, installed more than 1,000 MW in 2012. Leading non-residential markets included California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the utility market continues to be dominated by installations in the desert southwest. There were 152 utility solar installations in 2012, and eight of the ten largest projects currently in operation were completed in 2012. These installations represented 54% of total installed capacity, or 1,782 MW.

SEIA and GTM Research expect the growth to continue into 2013 and beyond. For this year, the report forecasts 4,300 MW of new PV installations, up 29 percent over 2012, and 946 MW of concentrating solar power. Over the next four years, the residential and non-residential markets are expected to gain market share as system prices decline, the industry becomes even more efficient, and new financing channels arise.

Solar Power

Suntech closing Goodyear factory

Chinese solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co. is closing its factory in Goodyear in part because of higher production costs.

The broader solar industry has struggled in recent years due to a steep price drop for solar panels. Global demand for panels has languished in Europe and elsewhere, even as manufacturing capacity soared.

Suntech’s solar panel manufacturing plant, which opened in October 2010, had 43 employees. The facility’s peak production was 50 megawatts per year in 2011. This was scaled back to 15 megawatts per year in November.

Suntech said Tuesday that the increased production costs were made worse by import tariffs on solar cells and aluminum frames imposed by the U.S. government and global solar module oversupply.

In November the U.S. International Trade Commission voted to impose unilateral tariffs of 35.97 percent on Suntech solar cells made in China. Suntech said these solar cells are a key component used at its Goodyear factory.

The company also said that the factory’s closing is in line with its restructuring efforts to rationalize production capacity and cut operating expenses by 20 percent this year.

U.S.-traded shares of Suntech fell 7 cents, or 6.1 percent, to $1.08 in midday trading. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of 71 cents to $3.68.

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Polsinelli Shughart attorney Appointed to Solar Task Force

Michael Patterson, an international business attorney with Polsinelli Shughart has been appointed to the Arizona Governor’s Solar Energy Advisory Task Force. Patterson brings to the committee a dedication to the growth of business in Arizona and an in depth knowledge of business and securities transactions, corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, and finance and compliance.

“I am honored to serve with my colleagues on the Governor’s Solar Energy Advisory Task Force as we work to identify ways to further strengthen Arizona’s solar industry and propose solutions to impediments in solar-energy development,” said Patterson.

Patterson also has considerable experience related to international business transactions and disputes. He previously lived and worked in Mexico City and Costa Rica working both in nonprofit initiatives and as a U.S. lawyer assisting U.S. companies.

“Arizona is uniquely positioned to expand its solar presence both nationally and internationally. I am excited to be able to contribute to the development of our State’s solar energy incentives, policies and best practices,” said Patterson.

The Governor’s Solar Energy Advisory Task Force was created by an executive order signed by Governor Jan Brewer in 2011.

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SRP helps 4 Valley Nonprofits get Solar Systems

Thanks to the generosity of SRP EarthWise Energy customers, four Valley nonprofits will receive solar electric systems.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the East Valley/Thunderbirds Branch in Guadalupe, Child Crisis Center in Mesa, Chrysalis Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence in Phoenix and The Phoenix Zoo will each receive a solar system up to 20 kilowatts in size, depending on site conditions.

These nonprofits were chosen by SRP customers who voted to determine the winners. The systems will generate electricity and help the nonprofits save money on their monthly electric bills.

SRP EarthWise Energy is a voluntary program in which more than 5,000 SRP customers participate for as little as $3 per month, with 100 percent of the funds used to provide solar electric systems to Valley nonprofit organizations.  In addition to helping nonprofits save money, the program contributes to the growth of solar energy in the Valley and educates customers on the importance of renewable energy.

“We are grateful to our EarthWise customers who have provided the funds to assist these important and vital non-profit organizations,” said Lori Singleton, SRP director of Emerging Customer Programs for Solar, Sustainability and Telecom. “Thanks to their generosity, these organizations will be able to reduce their electric bill and redirect their limited dollars to the needs of their communities.”

Since 2007, the voluntary contributions paid by EarthWise Energy customers have funded projects for community-based programs including Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Phoenix, Hospice of the Valley, the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, Desert Botanical Garden and Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona.

For more information, call (602) 236-2922 or email earthwise@srpnet.com. To sign up for the EarthWise Energy program, go to www.srpnet.com/earthwise.

solar

Arizona regulators cut TEP’s solar incentives

The Arizona Corporation Commission is reducing incentives provided by Tucson Electric Power Cop. for residential rooftop solar installations to generate electricity or heat water.

The commission also is eliminating Tucson Electric’s incentives for commercial customers’ renewable energy generation, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Commissioner Gary Pierce says the cuts approved Wednesday are justified because the costs of systems are dropping and because ratepayers need to be protected from rising costs of the state’s renewable energy program.

The commission increased by $5 million Tucson Electric’s spending for renewable energy under a state mandate for utilities to gradually increase their use of solar and other renewable sources.

solar

Arizona regulators cut TEP's solar incentives

The Arizona Corporation Commission is reducing incentives provided by Tucson Electric Power Cop. for residential rooftop solar installations to generate electricity or heat water.

The commission also is eliminating Tucson Electric’s incentives for commercial customers’ renewable energy generation, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Commissioner Gary Pierce says the cuts approved Wednesday are justified because the costs of systems are dropping and because ratepayers need to be protected from rising costs of the state’s renewable energy program.

The commission increased by $5 million Tucson Electric’s spending for renewable energy under a state mandate for utilities to gradually increase their use of solar and other renewable sources.

Funding Startup Companies Jumpstart Economy

GPEC boosts state’s economy by attracting more foreign direct investment

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council’s California 50 program — which aimed to fly 50 Golden State CEOs to Phoenix for an opportunity to tour and explore the region’s business-friendly environment — proved to be so popular that they expanded it to 100 a week after its launch.

But it may be GPEC’s pitch to CEOs even farther away that makes the biggest impact on Arizona’s economy.

“GPEC is focused on a specific region in China, defined by Shanghai and 10 other cities connected by high-speed rail,” says Ron Butler, managing partner at Ernst & Young in Phoenix and co-chair of GPEC’s International Leadership Council. “This region (known as the ‘Z Corridor’) features China’s largest concentration of industries, including solar, medical device, IT, pharmaceuticals, high-tech manufacturing and chemicals. GPEC has made tremendous strides over the past several years in China, particularly with solar and renewable energy companies. Now, the organization is looking to leverage those relationships and expand into other, capital-intensive industries.”

GPEC’s effort is significant, Butler says, because export industries and foreign direct investment (FDI) drive economic growth, create wealth within the region, and tend to be capital-intensive operations that pay higher-than-average wages. Currently, FDI accounts for 73,000 jobs in Arizona and the state saw a 235 percent increase in FDI from 2005-2010, from just over $270 million to more than $904 million.

“By focusing on the Z corridor, a zone known for its solar, high-tech, bio-medical, and chemical industries, GPEC has identified a region that can appreciate what Arizona and — more importantly Arizona workers — can do well,” says Ilya A. Iussa, assistant professor of law at Phoenix School of Law.

But it’s not just investment from China that is giving Arizona an economic boost within the solar and renewable energy industries. In addition to China’s Suntech, the region has seen investments from Spain’s Rioglass and Abengoa, England’s Faist, Germany’s Solon, France’s Saint-Gobain, and Canada’s Cosma International.

“GPEC smartly targets the regions and countries that represent significant growth opportunities, like Canada, China and Western Europe, and works these markets with effective marketing and business development strategies,” Butler says. “Now, with a more concentrated effort underway in China and successful positioning as both a leader in the U.S. solar market and an on-the-record supporter of expanded free trade with China, the Greater Phoenix region is poised for amplified growth in FDI, particularly from China.”

Despite its success, experts says Arizona still has some work to do.

“Our neighboring states and biggest competitors far outrank us in national FDI and export-trade rankings,” Butler says. “California is first for FDI and second for exports, while Texas is second for FDI and first for exports. As such, we must continue evaluating our market for additional FDI and export industry opportunities, and look for ways to increase our competitiveness in these areas.”

Lawmakers have identified one area that needs to be addressed to gain a competitive edge on other states.

“One of the first things we should do is focus on developing a highly educated workforce that will attract companies and businesses looking to move their headquarters,” says Rep. Matt Salmon, R-5. “In addition, it is equally important for us to create a pro-business environment and that comes by reducing harmful regulations that hamper economic growth. Both would increase Arizona’s role in the global economy.”

In order to be increase its global presence and become more competitive with neighboring states like California and Texas, Butler says Arizona must increase the number of export industries operating in the state.

“We can increase our competitiveness for these types of investments,” he says, “with a targeted economic development program for export industries, similar to the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program (SB1403), which has brought significant investments to the region and the Qualified Facilities Tax Credit (HB2815), which expanded the successful renewable energy program to include qualified, export-based investments.”

First Solar

First Solar buys Chilean solar company

Solar panel maker First Solar has purchased Chilean solar development company Solar Chile as energy demand continues to rise in the region.

The companies provided no financial terms in announcing the deal on Wednesday.

First Solar Inc., which is based in Tempe, bought Fundacion Chile’s stake in the company. First Solar and Fundacion Chile created a strategic working alliance with each other in October 2011. Fundacion Chile will continue to provide consultation services.

Solar Chile has photovoltaic power projects totaling approximately 1.5 gigawatts in northern Chile. Its five employees will join First Solar.

First Solar shares finished at $31.02 on Tuesday. They have almost tripled from a 52-week low of $11.42 in June. They peaked for the past year at $50.20 last February.

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Arizona ranked second in solar installation capacity

A report released this week shows that Arizona is ranked second nationwide when it comes to the capacity of solar installations.

The report issued by the Solar Energy Industries Association covers the third quarter of 2012.

According to the report, Arizona came had 192 megawatts of energy installed during that time behind California. Rounding out the top five were New Jersey, Massachusetts and Nevada.

Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Gary Pierce says policies adopted by the commission over the past two years have positioned Arizona to get more solar power at lower costs. He says the commission has been reducing incentives as demand for solar rises.

rsz_wilson

Wilson Electric Solar Energy Projects to Save Phoenix School More Than $1.5M

Washington Elementary School District completed a 961 kW solar energy project for Sunnyslope Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School (above photo) in North Phoenix.

In the first year of operation, the school district will save more than $28,000 in operational expenses, which is expected to grow to $1.5M over the next 20 years.

Wilson Electric Services Corporation designed and installed the systems with special consideration for the needs of the facility, ensuring the roof-mounted systems were ballasted and non-penetrating.

Solar support structures were built across the playgrounds and parking lots, which provided invaluable shading for the students’ most frequently used areas. Mountain View Elementary’s system includes 1,897 modules. The 550-kW system is meeting 61% of the school’s electricity needs. Sunnyslope Elementary’s 1,425 modules generate 82% of the school’s electricity needs from a 411-kW system.

The largest elementary school district in Arizona has a strong reputation for its Energy Conservation program; however, the upfront cost of solar has been prohibitive. Tioga Energy provided the solution: through its SurePath Solar power purchase agreement, Tioga owns and maintains the systems, selling the solar-generated electricity back to the school at rates below the utility.

Using the PPA from Tioga, the schools also benefit from the solar tax incentives which public entities are not eligible for alone. As the system owner, Tioga passes the incentives onto the schools.

Additionally, Wilson Electric and Tioga sponsored the district’s enrollment in the National Energy Education Development program. Teachers were trained in solar education curriculum development to incorporate into their classrooms.

“Overall, Tioga and Wilson Electric earned an A+ from our team,” said Sue Pierce, Director of Facility Planning and Energy for the Washington Elementary School District.

Each school has a touch-screen, web-based kiosk that displays real-time and historic system production data, as well as “fun fact” figures about the various carbon offset equivalents created through the use of solar energy. The district’s annual carbon dioxide reduction through these solar systems is estimated at 838 tons per year, or the equivalent of 154 passenger vehicles taken off the road.

“Our work with WESD demonstrates that the cost of solar power is not an insurmountable barrier; even the most budget-conscious organizations can achieve their sustainability objectives and realize major financial savings,” said Paul Detering, CEO of Tioga Energy.

Tioga Energy enables commercial, government, and nonprofit organizations to reduce electricity costs and enhance environmental sustainability without capital outlay. Tioga Energy owns and operates more than 100 renewable energy systems across the U.S.

 

solar

Shea Homes partners with Sunrun

Shea Homes is proud to announce a partnership with Sunrun, the nation’s largest home solar company, to help homeowners go solar without the high cost and hassle of owning and maintaining a solar system.

Through this partnership, homeowners can opt to have affordable solar preinstalled on their new homes.  The solar is lower in cost than typical solar installations because Sunrun owns, maintains and insures the systems.  Homeowners pay a low amount upfront for the solar power, taking control of their electric bills for 20 years.  Sunrun works with top local installation company American Solar to design and install the systems.

“Offering solar is in alignment with our overall goal to continually build homes that are highly energy efficient for our customers,” said Ken Peterson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Shea Homes. “Having this partnership with Sunrun is an added benefit to provide solar solutions to our customers which will ultimately reduce the monthly investment of operating their homes.”

“Sunrun invented solar service so that homeowners don’t have to choose between the planet and their wallets, and now it’s becoming a standard option for new homes,” said Sunrun Co-CEO Lynn Jurich.  “As solar adoption continues to grow, solar will be as common a consideration as countertop finish or flooring material.”

The Sunrun solar power service program will be available at Vista Montaña, Ridgeview and Hideaway at Johnson Ranch, Lantana at Power Ranch and SPACES at Evans Ranch. Homeowners can choose between three different system sizes, and systems will be custom-designed according to the square footage and orientation of the home. Check out a video about the new partnership here.

For specific pricing details, contact Shea Homes at 1-866-696-7432 or visit http://www.sheahomes.com/arizona.