The Salt River Project is set to begin work on the second phase of a solar installation that will be the nonprofit utility’s first utility-scale solar asset that it develops, owns and operates by itself.
When complete, the solar generation facility at the Copper Crossing Energy and Research Center in Florence, southeast of Mesa, will be able to generate up to 55 megawatts of solar energy, which is enough to power about 12,000 homes.
SRP will use an unspecified amount of federal incentive money made available through the Inflation Reduction Act for the project. The payments can be used by nonprofit utilities for renewable projects, and SRP said the funds will boost its ability to develop renewable resources while potentially reducing costs for customers.
The funding will also help the utility run the project on its own from start to finish. In the past, SRP has contracted renewable generation through agreements with developers, who in turn benefit from tax credits.
The new site’s advanced solar generation capabilities will provide vital experience and the ability to evaluate emerging commercial technology, SRP said.
“Constructing and operating this facility will allow SRP to learn more about advanced solar operations in preparation for the future,” said Kelly Barr, SRP’s Chief Strategy, Corporate Services and Sustainability Executive, in a statement. “We look forward to having direct ‘dispatchability’ of the system and others like it, and having firsthand real-time access to performance analytics to better understand how solar will continue to support our power system.”
Work on the installation is expected to take 24 months, the company said, noting that when the project is up and running it will help bring its level of carbon-free retail energy to more than 50% by 2025.
The new facility will be next to SRP’s Abel Substation on West Judd Road and Attaway Road, and adjacent to a separate 20-MW solar plant that serves SRP customers.
The utility’s board of directors in September approved the first phase of the Copper Crossing project. That will add two flexible natural gas turbines with a total output of less than 100 MW. A third phase, to add energy storage technology, will go before board members next year.
In October, SRP signed new contracts for two new battery storage facilities in Avondale and Gilbert that will go online in 2024 and have a combined output of 240 MW.
SRP currently has a 25MW battery storage facility in Peoria and a 10MW solar-battery system in Pinal County. In the works and expected to be operational in 2023 are the Sonoran Energy Center, which will be the largest solar-plus-battery project in the state; a solar-plus-battery-storage project at the Storey Energy Center near Coolidge; and the addition of battery storage at the Saint Solar Project, also near Coolidge. Read more about those projects here.
SRP serves more than a million customers, primarily in and around the Valley. In September, the nonprofit utility’s executive board approved a 4.7% rate increase, which equates to an average of $5.58 more on bills, starting in November. The company also approved a second increase to go into effect in November 2023.
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