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Arizona continues to attract solar development projects, more new jobs

Phoenix Business Journal

The Valley has seen a significant increase in solar development in recent years with several new projects planned or proposed to support the growing number of homes in the region, land and real estate experts say.

Vermaland, a Phoenix land banking and residential land company, said it currently has more than 10,000 acres under lease across 16 sites with several different power developers.

The company said it has been marketing its Valley properties to global companies since 2007, but it wasn’t until several years ago that they saw more activity thanks to a better business environment and incentives for solar, said Kuldip Verma, founder and CEO of Vermaland.

“Solar energy has become very cheap now, it’s the least expensive form of energy,” Verma told the Business Journal. “With electric cars, there’s more demand for electricity and solar projects. It’s the most activity we’ve ever seen in solar.”

Across the five projects in the West and Southeast Valley, each one totals 700 to 3,000 acres in size. Altogether, they will produce approximately 2,000 megawatts of power, or the equivalent of providing electricity to 400,000 homes, Verma said.

Verma said the solar farms are known as utility-scale projects, where the power from the projects is supplied to utility companies. In addition to lower costs for solar energy, Verma said newly passed federal infrastructure bills are supporting and promoting renewable energy industries such as solar.

Now, Verma is in the process of looking for 320 or more total acres, but said it has become increasingly difficult to find available land. Vermaland owns thousands of acres across the Phoenix metro and has recently proposed to develop a 1,100-acre master-planned community in Tonopah.

APS backs Agave Solar project

Another solar project in the works includes a project that McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. is currently developing for Arizona Public Service called Agave Solar Plant, a 150-megawatt solar facility located in Arlington in the far southwest Valley.

The facility is located across 1,423 acres, where McCarthy is employing about 200 people to assemble, install and wire horizontal Nextracker single axis trackers for approximately 424,000 First Solar 6 modules.

Once operational in the summer of 2023, the Agave Solar Plant is expected to generate enough power for up to 24,000 average homes in Arizona.

McCarthy has also completed the 40 MW Red Rock Solar Plant, 10 MW Desert Star Solar Plant, 10 MW Luke Air Force Base Solar Plant, 14 MW Hyder II Solar Plant, 18 MW Cotton Center Solar Station and the 21.7-MW Chino Valley Solar Plant for APS in Arizona. It is currently developing or has completed about 80 utility-scale clean energy projects across the U.S. since 2010.

In 2021, Arizona’s solar industry reached 8,278 jobs, which is an increase of about 12.7% compared to 7,346 jobs statewide in 2020. The state’s 932 new jobs last year was the fourth highest increase in the nation, according to Interstate Renewable Energy Council data.

IREC data also shows that Arizona ranks sixth in the nation for solar jobs, while California tops the nation with 75,712 jobs as of 2021. In total, the nation added about 21,563 jobs last year.

Recently, Tempe-based First Solar, largest U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer, said it would spend $1 billion to build a new factory, its fourth, somewhere in the Southeast.

First Solar CEO Mark Widmar said that recently passed federal legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, encouraged the company to make such a big investment. The Inflation Reduction Act is a wide-ranging new set of laws that includes $369 billion for climate and energy provisions and incentives for companies to build in the U.S.


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