First APS PV project on state lands commissioned

Foothills Solar Power Plant

An APS solar installationThe first 17 megawatt phase of Arizona Public Service Co.’s (APS’s) Foothills Solar Power Plant, being developed by AMEC, is now online. It’s the fifth project under the APS AZ Sun program, it’s the first project the utility is developing on Arizona State Trust Land.

The project is unique in that it’s the first solar project leased through Arizona’s State Land Department. The roughly $10 million, 35-year lease for the 400-acre parcel will help fund public education in the state. Roughly 87 percent of the lease will go back to the state’s schools, primarily to Arizona Common Schools, supporting grades K-12.

While the companies have completed the first phase of the project, there’s more to come this year. The remaining 18 megawatts of the 35 megawatt solar farm is slated for completion by the end of 2013.

After Arizona held the Arizona Solar Leadership Conference it developed “Arizona’s Solar Strategic Plan” to better utilize Arizona’s public lands by taking advantage of the state’s abundant sun. As such it’s land department approached APS with the idea of installing solar on its lands. It had already undertaken work to identify which lands in the state would be best for solar development.

APS has aggressively been building out the amount of solar in its portfolio recently. It also created the AZ Sun program, which allows the utility own and finance PV projects across Arizona. The program was approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission, allowing APS to move forward on projects like the Foothills Solar Power Plant. Under AZ Sun and other project the utility plans to double the amount of solar it installed in 2012 in 2013—2012 was its previous record-holder.

“By the end of this year APS will have almost 700 MW of solar energy in our generation portfolio—enough electricity to serve 175,000 Arizona homes,” said APS Chairman Don Brandt at a dedication ceremony on April 15. “Arizona now ranks second in the country in solar megawatts installed, and APS is a big part of making Arizona a national leader in solar development.”

“Foothills, like all of our AZ Sun facilities, is generating clean solar energy that is becoming a critical part of our planning to meet the energy needs of APS customers,” Brandt said. “These plants also are creating quality jobs for Arizona. Foothills alone has brought more than 100 jobs to the Yuma area,” he said.