SRP to buy solar power from array in E. Valley

SRP to buy solar power from array in E. Valley

Salt River Project announced Thursday that it will buy power from a solar array planned in Queen Creek that should be operating by late 2012, and it said another solar announcement is coming, helping meet its renewable-energy goals until about 2017.

The utility signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with Juwi Solar Inc. The company is based in Boulder, Colo., and its majority owner is Juwi Holding AG of Germany, with minority owners in the U.S.

Combined with another solar- power plant yet to be announced, SRP has nearly enough renewable energy under development to meet its alternative-energy goals through about 2017, officials said.

SRP issued a request for proposals last year for as much as 50 megawatts of solar power to be operational by late 2012 and another 50 megawatts to be online by late 2013, said Chico Hunter, SRP principal analyst for resource planning and development.

The 19-megawatt deal with Juwi (pronounced you-we) is the utility’s selection for the first part of that request for proposals.

One megawatt of energy capacity is enough electricity to power about 250 homes at once, or in the case of a solar-power plant, while the sun is shining directly on it.

SRP still has to announce a winner or winners of the second portion of its request for proposals. The company received about 100 responses to its requests for solar plants, including multiple offers from some companies, Hunter said.

SRP does not disclose the price of its power-purchase agreements.

“We evaluated the projects on a number of criteria,” Hunter said. “Most important was price. (Juwi’s was) one of the lowest-cost projects. We also looked at experience and financial strength.”

Tempe-based First Solar Inc. had a deal to purchase nearly $10million worth of land in the far East Valley from Mesa as part of its response to SRP for solar projects, which the city disclosed in August.

It is unclear if First Solar remains in the running for the SRP projects and whether that land sale will proceed now that Juwi has been selected for the first phase of the SRP request for proposals.

“We are in negotiations with other projects,” Hunter said, adding that SRP has non-disclosure agreements with all the companies that provided proposals.

First Solar spokesman Alan Bernheimer said the company maintains an option on the Mesa land.

Juwi does not make solar panels but develops, builds and operates solar plants with panels from various companies.

It has often used panels from First Solar in the past for its solar plants, and the companies co-sponsor an amateur U.S. road-cycling team. But Seth Kassels, Juwi’s director of project management, could not say what kind of solar panels will be used for the Queen Creek project.

Bernheimer declined to say whether First Solar will supply panels to Juwi for Queen Creek.

The plant will mount solar panels on a single-axis tracker that allows them to face the sun for more hours of the day than stationary solar panels, Kassels said. A variety of companies, including First Solar, use such trackers.

Juwi has a lease at the northeastern corner of Crismon and Queen Creek roads on about 140 acres of land that currently is farmed, and the town recently approved a zoning change to allow the power plant, Kassels said.

SRP officials have set a goal to meet 20percent of the municipal utility’s demand for electricity with conservation and renewable sources like solar and wind by 2020. It meets about 7percent of its demand with those sources now, exceeding its goal, which increases each year until 2020.

With two wind farms being developed in the Seligman area, a new 20-megawatt solar array in Florence and another solar project or two that will come from its request for proposals, the company should meet its goals until about 2017, depending on how much electricity demand grows, Hunter said.

He said SRP is in negotiations for renewable power that was not put out in a public request for proposals and could announce a project from those discussions, but otherwise won’t need more renewable projects until 2017 or so with those that are now under development.

“A lot of that depends on when the housing market will come back,” he said. “That is really what dictates our resource planning.”

SRP will not own any of those power projects because, as a municipal utility, it cannot take advantage of federal tax credits and other incentives that can cover 30percent of their costs. So, SRP signs long-term deals to purchase the power from the plants while companies such as Juwi own them.

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