Government officials and solar-power leaders hailed the activation Monday of a 1-mega-watt solar plant on Tucson's north side as a job-creating, money-saving, pollution-reducing boon to Pima County.
The plant's 3,700 solar panels were built locally by Solon Corp., a solar technology manufacturer, at its factory in Tucson. SunEdison, a solar energy services provider, funded the plant.
The roughly 2-acre photovoltaic plant will help power the Roger Road Wastewater Reclamation Facility, 3035 W. El Camino del Cerro, and is the largest of its kind to be deployed within Pima County, according to a fact sheet provided by county supervisors.
Because the solar plant was financed by SunEdison, Pima County taxpayers paid no up-front capital costs for the system. The county will buy energy generated by the plant from SunEdison for the duration of a 20-year contract. Solon Corp. will operate and maintain the plant under contract with SunEdison.
County Supervisors Richard Elias and Ray Carroll touted the plant's expected economic and environmental benefits at a ceremony on Monday.
"This will save lots of money long-term," Carroll said. He referred to estimates that the plant will save the county $1.2 million to $2 million per year over the 20-year contract, based on projected conventional energy price increases of 2.4 percent to 4 percent per year.
The plant is expected to provide more than 2 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year and more than 40 million over the next 20 years, roughly enough energy to power 3,700 U.S. homes for one year.
As for the plant's environmental impact, the county estimates it will offset more than 47 million pounds of carbon dioxide over the next 20 years, the equivalent of taking about 4,600 cars off the road for one year.
Additionally, the county hopes the plant will save between 1.1 million and 1.6 million gallons of water that would be needed for conventional electrical generation.
"As supervisors, our intent is to have a positive legacy," Carroll said. "We're leaving a clean wake."
Daniel Alcombright, North American regional vice president and general manager of Solon Corp., lauded the project for supporting "green" jobs in Tucson.
"Where are the green jobs? Right here in Pima County," he said.
Solon employs about 150 people in Tucson, Alcombright said.
Cory Vaughan, director of sales for SunEdison, praised the county Board of Supervisors for passing a sustainability resolution in May 2007. "Their participation was vital," Vaughan said.
The resolution urged the county government to meet at least 15 percent of its energy needs using renewable resources by 2025.
Contact reporter Alex Dalenberg at email@example.com or 573-4224.