January 10, 2012

ASU, SRP partner on 1MW solar power plant

Posted: January 10, 2012
Arizona State University continues its solar advancements. Last fall ASU became the first higher education institution to generate more than 10 megawatts of solar energy with its recent 168-kilowatt (dc) solar installation at the Verde Dickey Dome (pictured) on the Tempe campus.
Photo by: Tom Story

Salt River Project (SRP), Arizona State University and SunPower Corp. have announced an agreement to build a 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant at ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, Ariz.

The facility will be the first commercial deployment of SunPower C7 Tracker technology, a solar photovoltaic tracking system that concentrates the sun’s power seven times, designed to achieve the lowest levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar power plants available today.

SunPower is engineering and constructing the plant on the southeast corner of the ASU Polytechnic campus, and will operate and maintain it. Under a purchase-power agreement, SRP will buy the entire output of the solar plant from SunPower and, in a separate agreement, ASU will purchase all of the energy attributable to the plant for use at its Polytechnic campus.

The plant is expected to produce an amount of energy equal to that needed to serve about 225 SRP customers’ homes, will require minimal water use and supports ASU’s renewable energy goals. Construction of the plant is contingent on a number of factors, including receipt of all applicable permits.

“The installation of SunPower’s ground-breaking technology helps move ASU closer to our 2014, 20-megawatt solar energy-generating goal,” said David Brixen, ASU’s associate vice president of Facilities Development and Management.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, ASU was generating 14.5 megawatts of solar energy. “This dynamic project with SunPower enables us to embrace innovative technologies and also facilitate possible education opportunities for our students,” said Brixen.

“As we continue to add resources to our sustainable portfolio, SRP is very interested in finding new low-cost and efficient renewable-energy technologies that can help keep our customers’ prices low,” said John Sullivan, SRP’s chief resource executive. “SunPower’s C7 Tracker System is the type of promising technology that can provide both benefits.”

The C7 Tracker combines single-axis tracking technology with rows of parabolic mirrors, reflecting light onto 22.8 percent efficient SunPower Maxeon solar cells, the world’s most efficient large-area solar cells. Using mirrors to reduce the number of solar cells required to generate electricity will lower the LCOE by up to 20 percent compared to competing technologies. For example, the 1-megawatt C7 Tracker power plant at ASU will require only 172 kilowatts of SunPower solar cells.

“The SunPower C7 Tracker leverages SunPower’s depth of experience developing reliable tracking systems and delivers bankable technology with guaranteed performance,” said Howard Wenger, president, regions, of SunPower. “We applaud our partners on this project in selecting this advanced technology platform that will deliver cost-effective renewable energy for the long-term.”

The ASU solar plant will be the third commercial-scale solar facility in the Valley of the Sun to provide energy for SRP. Recently, SRP reached an agreement to purchase the output of a 19-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant in Queen Creek. Copper Crossing – a 20-megawatt facility located in Pinal County and designed and built by SunPower – began providing energy for SRP’s Community Solar program last year. More than 100 schools in 11 Valley school districts are tapping into the power of the sun from that plant to offset a portion of their electric needs through the program.

Community Solar is also open to residential customers, allowing customers to invest in solar energy without the upfront costs or maintenance of a rooftop system.

The SRP board of directors has set a goal to meet 20 percent of SRP’s retail electricity requirements through sustainable resources by the year 2020.  The goal increases each year until 2020. For the most recent fiscal year, SRP exceeded the 5 percent goal, providing about 9 percent of retail energy needs with sustainable resources including wind, solar and geothermal energy, hydro power and conservation and energy-efficiency measures.

Media Contacts:
Scott Harelson, 602.236.2500, SRP Media Relations
Ingrid Ekstrom, 510.260.8368, SunPower Corp.

Wendy Craft, wendy.craft@asu.edu
ASU Business and Finance