Tucson-based solar energy provider Solon Corp. has completed construction of a 5-megawatt solar plant on the southeast side for Tucson Electric Power Co.

The fixed-tilt photovoltaic system, known as the Prairie Fire Solar Plant, was designed and constructed by Solon for TEP, which will own and operate the solar production facility.

The system spans 28 acres and is composed of more than 17,000 solar panels. The construction of the system, near East Valencia and East Old Vail roads, took just 10 weeks and created the equivalent of 75 full-time local jobs.

Over the course of a year, the Prairie Fire array is expected to produce about 9,000 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power more than 850 homes.

The overall project cost is about $16 million, TEP spokesman Joe Barrios said.

TEP has been recovering its costs for such projects through funds collected from ratepayers for renewable-energy projects, under a state mandate. But the long-term plan is to add such plants to TEP's regular rate base along with the costs of other power plants, Barrios noted. That issue is expected to be decided later this year as part of TEP's pending rate case.

The Prairie Fire system is the third utility-scale solar array Solon has developed for TEP in Tucson.

By the end of 2013, TEP expects to have more than 250MW of renewable generating capacity, enough energy to power the equivalent of about 50,000 homes.

With the activation of Prairie Fire, Solon has nearly 65MW of solar resources installed and operating in the state.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.