Solar power in Arizona

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Insolation on developable areas of the SW United States.

Solar power in Arizona has the potential to, according to then-Governor Janet Napolitano, make Arizona "the Persian Gulf of solar energy". In 2012, Arizona had 1,106 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems, and 6 MW of concentrated solar power (CSP), bringing the total to over 1,112 megawatts (MW) of solar power. The Solana Generating Station is a 280 MW parabolic trough solar plant which is the largest plant of its type in the world.[1][2] Solana includes 6 hours of power storage by molten salt. The plant will provide 5% of the power from Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility.

A Renewable Portfolio Standard set by the Arizona Corporation Commission requires 15% renewable energy by 2025 among regulated utilities, 4.5% of which must come from distributed renewable energy sources. As of January 30, 2013, 19 projects, with a total nameplate capacity of 13.450 gigawatts (GW) are actively seeking permission to build on federally owned BLM land in Arizona,[3][4] and one, the 300 MW Sonoran Solar Project has been approved.[5]


Solar Array
Arizona State University solar array

The first commercial solar power system in the state is the 1997 95 kilowatt (kW) single-axis tracking photovoltaic plant in Flagstaff, Arizona, operated by Arizona Public Service (APS). In 1999, the city of Scottsdale covered an 8,500 square feet (790 m2) parking lot with photovoltaic panels, to both provide shaded parking, and generate 93 kW of solar power. In 2001 APS and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University constructed a 190 kW single-axis tracking photovoltaic power plant.

In 2001, the Springerville Generating Station Solar System was built by Tucson Electric Power, one of the first large scale photovoltaic power stations. Originally 4.6 MW, it has been expanded to 6.4 MW.[6][7] In 2002, Love Field Airport, in Prescott, Arizona, began construction of a 5 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic power plant. By July 2006, it had a peak capacity of 2.879 MWAC.[8][9]

The two operating concentrated solar power plants are the 1 MW Saguaro Solar Power Plant completed in 2005, the first commercial CSP plant of the 3rd millennium, and a 5 MW solar trough system at the University of Arizona Solar Tech Park project which was completed in 2011.[10] The 280 MW Solano Generating Station is under construction. The 1.5 MW Maricopa Solar Power Plant completed in 2010, using Stirling dish technology,[11][12] was decommissioned in September 2011 and sold at auction on April 17, 2012[13] to CondiSys Solar Technology of China, for $250,000.[14]

In 2008 Governor Janet Napolitano said that Arizona had the potential to become "the Persian Gulf of solar energy".[15] In 2012, the NREL determined that Arizona has the potential to install 5,147 GW of photovoltaic power plants, and/or up to 3,528 GW of concentrated solar power plants (CSP), sufficient to generate more than three times total US consumption in 2012.[16] According to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, Arizona installed over 55 megawatts of solar power in 2010, doubling its 2009 increase of 21 MW, ranking it behind California (259 MW), New Jersey (137 MW), Florida (110 MW), and Nevada (61 MW).[17] By the end of 2011, Arizona had installed 383 MW of photovoltaics, in third place, behind New Jersey, and California.

In 2012 the first 100 MW of the Agua Caliente Solar Project was connected to the grid, making it the largest photovoltaic power plant in North America, and third largest in the world, being slightly larger than the 97 MW Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant. By July over 200 MW had been completed, making it the largest photovoltaic power plant in the world.[18] By September 2012, 250 MW (AC) had been completed.[19]

In January 2013, 150 MW of the 700 MW Mesquite Solar project photovoltaic power plant was completed.[20]

The Solana Generating Station completed testing in October 2013. The 280 MW parabolic trough solar plant is the largest plant of its type in the world.[1][2] Solana includes 6 hours of power storage by molten salt. The plant will provide 5% of the power for Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility.

Historically, Arizona has had one of the most successful solar incentive programs in the United States. However, as of February, 2013, the Arizona Corporation Commission has completely eliminated commercial incentives and has severely reduced the amount of residential incentives available.[21] Still, some of the country's largest solar providers continue to do business in the state, including the largest solar contractor in the US, First Solar.[22]

Community solar farms[edit]

Arizona has two community solar farms. Tucson Electric Power has a 1.6 MW community solar farm southeast of Tucson. Consumers can purchase 150 kWh for about $3/month. The 227 kW Trico Sun Farm in Marana allows Trico customers to purchase solar panels in one quarter increments for $920, and receive a credit of the output, about 36 kWh, each month for 20 years, worth about $5.[23] Customers can purchase up to their average usage for the last 12 months, up to 10,000 watts.[24]



Arizona Solar Capacity (MWp)[25][26][27][28][29][30][31]
Year Photovoltaics CSP
Capacity Installed % Change Capacity Installed % Change
2007 18.9 2.8 17 1 0
2008 25.3 6.2 34 1 0
2009 46.2 21.1 83 1 0
2010 110.0 63.6 138 2.5 1.5 150
2011 397.6 287.8 261 6 3.5 140
2012 1106.4 708.8 178 6 0 0
2013 1563.1 423.7 37 256 250 4200
2014 2,069 287.8 32 256 0 0
2015 2,303 234 11 256 0 0


Arizona utility scale solar electric generation:[32]

2015 Monthly Solar Profile for AZ[33]
AZ Solar Energy Profile 2014[34]
Year Generation
(% of AZ total)
(% of US Solar)
2010 16 <0.1% 1.3%
2011 83 0.1% 4.6%
2012 955 0.9% 22.1%
2013 2,111 1.9% 23.4%
2014 3,142 2.8% 16.9%
2015 3,457 3.1% 13.9%
2016* 3,753 3.4% 10.2%

(*) Preliminary data from Electric Power Monthly.

Beginning with the 2014 data year, Energy Information Administration has estimated distributed solar photovoltaic generation and distributed solar photovoltaic capacity. These non-utility scale estimates project that, Arizona, generated the following additional solar energy.

Estimated Distributed Solar Electric Generation in Arizona[35] [36]
Year Summer Capacity (MW) Electric energy (GWh or M kWh)
2014 916
2015 769 1,370
2016 907.7 1,655

Large projects[edit]

MW Name County Location Technology Notes
397 Agua Caliente Solar Project Yuma County Palomas Plain
32°58′45″N 113°29′45″W / 32.97917°N 113.49583°W / 32.97917; -113.49583 (Agua Caliente Solar Project)[37]
photovoltaic 250 MW AC (roughly 300 MW DC) online September 2012[38]
300 Arlington Valley Solar project I and II Maricopa County west of Arlington photovoltaic
320 Mesquite Solar project Maricopa County west of Arlington
33°20′N 112°55′W / 33.333°N 112.917°W / 33.333; -112.917 (Mesquite Solar project)[39]
photovoltaic 150 MW phase 1 completed January 2013,[40] up to 700 MW planned
280 Solana Generating Station Maricopa County southwest of Phoenix
32°55′N 112°58′W / 32.917°N 112.967°W / 32.917; -112.967 (Solana Generating Station)[41]
parabolic trough with 6 hours storage [42]

Proposed large projects[edit]

MW Name County Location Technology Notes
1,200 Sterling Solar Generating Facility Mohave County southeast of Needles, CA
34°45′N 114°25′W / 34.750°N 114.417°W / 34.750; -114.417 (Sterling Solar Generating Facility)[43]
photovoltaic [44][45]
340 Hualapai Valley Solar Project Mohave County Hualapai Valley
35°36′N 114°0′W / 35.600°N 114.000°W / 35.600; -114.000 (Hualapai Valley Solar Project)[46]
parabolic trough [47][48]
325 Hyder Valley Solar Energy Project Yuma County Palomas Plain
33°05′N 113°13′W / 33.083°N 113.217°W / 33.083; -113.217 (Hyder Valley)[49]
parabolic trough 200 MW phase 1, 125 MW phase 2
300 Sonoran Solar Project Maricopa County south of Buckeye
33°14′N 112°34′W / 33.24°N 112.56°W / 33.24; -112.56 (Sonoran Solar Energy Project)[50]
photovoltaic [51] Approved late 2011[52]
215 Crossroads Solar Energy Project Maricopa County west of Gila Bend
32°58′N 112°53′W / 32.96°N 112.89°W / 32.96; -112.89 (Crossroads Solar Energy Project)[53]
solar power tower with 10 hours of heat storage; 65 MW of PV [54][55][56]
100 Quartzsite Solar Energy Project La Paz County north of Quartzsite
33°48′N 114°12′W / 33.8°N 114.2°W / 33.8; -114.2 (Quartzsite Solar Energy Project)[57]
power tower [51]
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap · Google Maps
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

Net metering[edit]

As of October 16, 2008, Arizona has one of the most consumer-friendly net metering laws in the country. Excess generation is rolled over month to month, and any surplus is returned annually to the consumer at the avoided cost rate.[58] IREC best practices, based on experience, recommends perpetual roll over of kWh credits.[59] Arizona had 642 MW of rooftop solar in 2015.[60] Historically, the states' utilities have led repeated, failed efforts to eliminate net metering. [61] But after a year of wrangling with the solar industry, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC)[62] decided in December 2016 to lower net-metering reimbursement rates significantly, leading to a temporary lull in rooftop solar installations because the lower rates made solar installations less economical for most residential and commercial installations.[63]

Behind the scenes, however, Arizona Public Service negotiated a settlement with the solar industry in March 2017, which is still pending official approval from the ACC. In July, Administrative Law Judge Teena Jibilian gave the agreement a boost when she recommended, in a more than 427-page statement,[64] that the ACC approve the deal.[65]

Renewable Portfolio Standard[edit]

The Arizona Renewable Portfolio Standard calls for 15% renewable energy by 2025, and 4.5% (30% of that) from distributed generation from renewable sources. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), may be purchased to meet the requirement.[66]

Arizona Solar Business Directory[edit]

The Arizona Solar Business Directory[67] contains almost 100 solar installation companies that do business in Arizona and is maintained by the Arizona Solar Power Society. The business directory allows consumers and commercial customers to contact a number of different companies to get the best deal and best performing products in the solar industry.

Arizona Solar Watchdog Program[edit]

The purpose of the Arizona Solar Watchdog Program[68] is to teach consumers how to check a solar installation contractor's license, credentials and work history. Every contractor in Arizona needs to be registered with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.[69] Each contractor is issued a Registrar of Contractors' license number, which can be looked up using the step-by-step process outlined under the Arizona Solar Watchdog Program.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Solana, the largest solar power plant in the world Archived 2013-06-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b Davis, Tony (February 12, 2009). "Arizona: the West's solar source". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  3. ^ Oseguera, Oso (July 7, 2010). "Sunny Mexico: An Energy Opportunity". Greentech Media. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  4. ^ Pending Solar Projects
  5. ^ Sonoran Solar Energy
  6. ^ Springerville Generating Station Solar System
  7. ^ Five Years of Operating Experience at the Springerville PV Generating Plant
  8. ^ APS Solar Power Plants Archived 2007-07-17 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Prescott Airport Solar Power Plant Archived 2009-04-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ UA Tech Park Thermal Storage Demonstration Project
  11. ^ SRP 1.5 MW Maricopa Solar Plant – Peoria, Arizona
  12. ^ Stirling Dish Technology Report
  13. ^ Former Stirling power plant in Peoria to be sold, disassembled
  14. ^ Top bid on plant is $250K
  15. ^ Myers, Amanda Lee (February 22, 2008). "Huge solar power plant planned in Gila Bend by Spanish company". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  16. ^ Renewable Energy Technical Potential Archived 2012-09-15 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2010 Year in Review (Executive Summary)" (link to PDF). SEIU & GTM. March 10, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  18. ^ Arizona solar plant reaches historic mark
  19. ^ World's Largest Operational Solar PV Project, Agua Caliente, Achieves 250 Megawatts of Grid-Connected Power Archived 2013-05-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Sempra Completes first phase of Mesquite Solar Project
  21. ^ Mark Bissegger (March 13, 2013). "Arizona Takes Steps Towards Incentive Free Solar". ClearSky Advisors. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  22. ^ Solar Power World
  23. ^ Trico customers can buy power from 'sun farm'
  24. ^ SunWatts Sun Farm FAQs
  25. ^ Sherwood, Larry (August 2012). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2011" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2012-08-16. 
  26. ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2010). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2009" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 23. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-09-25. Retrieved 2012-07-12. 
  27. ^ Sherwood, Larry (June 2011). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2010" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 20. Retrieved 2011-06-29. 
  28. ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2009). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2008" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  29. ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2012). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2012" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). p. 16. Retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  30. ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2014). "U.S. Solar Market Trends 2013" (PDF). Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Retrieved 2014-09-26. 
  31. ^ Arizona Solar
  32. ^ "Electric Power Monthly-Data Browser 6/17"[1] retrieved 2017-6-19
  33. ^ "Electric Power Monthly" [2] retrieved 2016-3-10
  34. ^ "Electric Power Monthly-Data Browser 5/15"[3] retrieved 2015-5-30
  35. ^ “Electric Power Monthly”[4] |title=Electric Power Monthly (February 2017 with data for December 2016) - Table 6.2.B. Net Summer Capacity using Primarily Renewable Sources retrieved 2017 6 19
  36. ^ “Electric Power Monthly”[5] |title=Electric Power Monthly (February 2017 with data for December 2016) - Table 1.17.B. Net Generation from Solar Photovoltaic retrieved 2017 6 19
  37. ^ "Agua Caliente Solar Project". First Solar, Inc. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  38. ^ "World's Largest Operational Solar PV Project, Agua Caliente, Achieves 250 Megawatts of Grid-Connected Power". 10 September 2012. Archived from the original on 1 May 2013. 
  39. ^ "Mesquite Solar Energy Project". Sempra Generation. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  40. ^ "Sempra Generation contracts with PG&E for 150 mw of solar power". Sempra Energy. October 12, 2010. Archived from the original on November 13, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  41. ^ "About Solana Generating Station". Arizona Public Service (APS). Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-05-30. The plant will be located on the northwest corner of Interstate 8 (I-8) and Painted Rock Dam road. 
  42. ^ Big Solar Project Planned for Arizona Desert Archived 2009-08-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  43. ^ "Sterling Solar Generating Facility Looks to File for Transmission Access" (PDF). Needle Mountain Power, LLC. January 15, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-01. 
  44. ^ Adams, Suzanne (January 28, 2010). "Massive solar plant proposed for Havasu". Kingman Daily Miner. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  45. ^ Hanson, Jayne (July 4, 2010). "Estimates for solar project down by $1B". Today's News-Herald. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  46. ^ Dong, Mitchell (April 1, 2009). "Mitchell Dong - Alternative Energy Entrepreneur". Mohave Sun Power. Archived from the original (slideshow) on October 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  47. ^ Adams, Suzanne (May 13, 2009). "Another solar plant on tap". Kingman Daily Miner. Archived from the original on May 3, 2011. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  48. ^ Chilton, James (September 18, 2009). "P&Z OKs Hualapai Valley Solar plan". Kingman Daily Miner. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  49. ^ "Hyder Valley Solar Project". BLM. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  50. ^ "Sonoran Solar Energy Project". Bureau of Land Management (BLM). October 20, 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  51. ^ a b "US CSP Project Tracker" (PDF). Greentech Media. May 13, 2009. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  52. ^ Solar Development on Public Lands in Arizona
  53. ^ "Crossroads Solar Energy Project". SolarReserve. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  54. ^ Prior, Brett (February 9, 2011). "As One Solar Thermal Project Dies, Another is Born". Greentech Media. Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  55. ^ "Project Overview". Crossroads Solar Energy Project. Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  56. ^ "SolarReserve's 150MW AZ Solar Energy Project Approved". Crossroads Solar Energy Project. November 21, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  57. ^ "Quartzsite Solar Energy Project". BLM. February 2, 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  58. ^ Net Metering
  59. ^ Net Metering and Interconnection Procedures Incorporating Best Practices
  60. ^ 2016 State of the Interconnection page 10-14 + 18-23. WECC, 2016. Archive
  61. ^
  62. ^ "APS, pro-solar group together spend $6 million on Arizona Corporation Commission races". pv magazine USA. Retrieved 2017-07-28. 
  63. ^ "Arizona's changes to net metering could derail the state's rooftop solar market". pv magazine USA. Retrieved 2017-07-28. 
  64. ^ "Arizona Administrative Law Judge's Full Decision On APS, solar industry agreement" (PDF). Retrieved July 28, 2017. 
  65. ^ "Arizona sun rises: Judge endorses APS, solar industry settlement". pv magazine USA. Retrieved 2017-07-28. 
  66. ^ Renewable Energy Standard Archived 2008-04-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  67. ^ Arizona Solar Business Directory
  68. ^ Arizona Solar Watchdog Program Archived 2012-07-31 at
  69. ^ Arizona Registrar of Contractors

External links[edit]