Arizona Western installs 5MW solar power, research center

Arizona Western installs 5MW solar power, research centerArizona Western College celebrated the installation of 5 megawatts of new solar energy on its campus in Yuma this week.

The project will not only provide cost-saving power to the community college campus, but it’s blend of five different technologies also promises to draw international attention from those interested in studying solar.

“We know of no other solar project where all five technologies are showcased at utility scale, installed by the same group, at the same time with the same equipment, tracked and optimized, and under the best solar resource in the country. The data generated by the project should be very interesting,” Bruce Mercy, CEO of PPA Partners, was quoted in a release from the college.

The project is composed of five 1-megawatt sites across the campus. Each of the five sites uses different technology from a different company. One site has concentrated photovoltaic solar technology from SolFocus, which employs dual-axis trackers.

GreenVolts installed its fully-integrated system including two-axis trackers and inverters. Sharp Solar provided 1 megawatt of thin film. SolarWorld installed monocrystalline panels. Polycrystalline panels came from Suntech. O Solar used single-axis trackers.

A little community college may seem like a funny place for such a big solar experiment, said Lori Stofft, college director of public relations, but it’s actually a perfect fit.

She said the college already had one rooftop solar array that was hooked up to a data center, which students and educators around the country could access.

“If that server went down, our IT administrator would get calls right away from Boston and around the country,” Stofft said. “We know people were using it.”

Yuma, where the college is located, is on record in the Guiness Book as the sunniest city in the country, Stofft said.

So it makes sense to take advantage of the natural resource for energy purposes. But it’s also a fantastic educational resource, Stofft said.

The college graduated its first class of certified solar installers in April. There were 19 of them.

“So they’re out getting jobs now,” she said.

The solar installations on the campus will help the campus grow its clean technology and science programs, she said. It will also be a relief from growing utility bills.

“Like most community colleges,” she said. “Enrollment has skyrocketed, while funding is going down.”

Image courtesy of PPA Partners.