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For Earth Day, UA sheds light on solar energy plan

Partnership’s goal: Increase renewable energy use to 50%

The University of Arizona will soon make greater use of Tucson’s abundant sunshine by equipping more campus rooftops with solar panels.

UA’s goal is to increase its renewable energy generation to 50 percent within 10 years, President Robert Shelton said.

UA and APS Energy Services officials announced under sunny skies Wednesday – Earth Day – a partnership that will add 500 kilowatts of photovoltaic solar generation capacity.

In addition, thermal solar devices will heat swimming pool water.

The venture will decrease UA’s dependence on fossil fuels while reducing the school’s carbon footprint, Shelton said.

The project is expected to provide power to UA at about 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (normal grid rates), said Bob Georgeoff, APS Energy Services managing director.

APS will design, install, operate and maintain the system; UA will purchase the power generated, Georgeoff said.

This arrangement protects UA, and Arizona taxpayers, from financial liabilities for the project, said Ralph Banks, UA manager of engineering.

Installation of rooftop polycrystalline PV panels and solar thermal collectors is scheduled to begin in May and conclude by year’s end, Georgeoff said.

He declined to disclose the project’s cost.

The project continues the growth of UA’s renewable energy efforts, Shelton said.

“We will continue to add thermal and solar photovoltaic to the campus wherever we can,” he said. “In 10 years we should be able to generate half our energy through renewables.”

UA currently meets 5 percent to 10 percent of its energy needs through renewables, Banks said. The project will offset another 5 percent to 10 percent of UA’s energy needs to renewables, he said.

APS has worked with UA for more than 10 years to reduce energy use and boost the use of renewables.

Efforts have saved 55 million kilowatt-hours per year, Georgeoff said, as well as the carbon produced by 8,800 cars per year.

“UA is one of the most energy efficient campuses in the country,” said Leonard Byrd, project development manager at APS.

The project includes more than PV.

Thermal solar devices will heat pool water at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center and the Student Recreation Center, Banks said.

The solar devices will do away with the need for 50 percent of the natural gas energy used annually by UA to heat the 1.7 million gallons of water in the pools, Banks said.

PV panels installed on the roofs of the Second Street parking garage will help shade parked cars, and aid campus research efforts, he said.

The project is a step forward, but much remains to be done, Banks said.

The peak summer energy demand on campus is 25 to 30 megawatts, and the project adds 500 kilowatts, he said. A megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts.

“It’s still a baby step when you look at the overall demand,” Banks said

While APS will pay for and operate the solar project, Tucson Electric Power Co. will provide financial incentives in exchange for credits to meet Arizona Corporation Commission-mandated standards for renewable energy production, said Joe Salkowski, TEP spokesman.

The ACC requires that 2 percent of power sold by TEP and other Arizona utilities come from renewable sources this year. The requirement ramps up to 15 percent by 2025.

Byrd said TEP will provide 18 cents per metered kilowatt-hour generated by PV panels over 20 years.

TEP’s performance based incentive will pay $200,000 the first year of operation, with the figure falling slightly each year because of decreasing efficiencies in the solar generating system.

TEP’s incentive payments help APS provide UA power at a lower cost, Byrd said.

TEP’s customers benefit because the project uses the sun’s energy to offset power TEP would have had to generate using fossil fuels, Salkowski said.



Watt, kilowatt and megawatt are measures of electrical power:

• A kilowatt is 1,000 watts.

• A megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts or 1 million watts.

• A kilowatt equals about 1.34 horsepower.

• A kilowatt-hour is the amount of energy expended if work is done at a rate of one kilowatt for one hour.

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