According to a recent Reuters report, Tucson Electric Power announced Wednesday that it will purchase power from two Arizona-based solar energy systems. The move is expected to benefit many of Tucson Electric’s 400,000 customers in Arizona by providing solar power for more than 6,000 homes. It will also prevent production of an estimated 64,000 tons of CO2.
Tucson Electric Power, a unit of UniSource Energy Corp, will purchase power from a 25-megawatt photovoltaic array and a 5-megawatt concentrating solar power plant. The facilities will be owned by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures and Bell Independent Power Corp, respectively. The facilities should be completed by 2012, at which point Tucson Electric will purchase solar power from them for 20 years.
The move is a significant financial investment for Tucson Electric, which could have saved money in the short term by investing in natural gas power. (According to industry estimates, it costs approximately $700 per kilowatt to build a natural gas plant, versus $6,000 per kilowatt for a photovoltaic system or $5,000 per kilowatt for a five-megawatt system.) Apparently, Tucson Electric was motivated to purchase solar because of the volatility of natural gas prices and the potential for impending greenhouse gas mandates.
Tucson Electric will be required to obtain state approval for the solar projects. The company’s purchase is in line with Arizona’s renewable energy goals (the state seeks to increase its renewable energy sourcing by 15 percent by 2025).