February 13, 2012

ASU solar program shines, tops 14.5 megawatts

Posted: February 13, 2012
The nearly 500-kilowatt installation atop Wells Fargo Arena on the Tempe campus is a shining example of Arizona State University's growing solar program.
Photo by: Thomas Perez, Skyview Helicam
In early September, ASU surpassed 10 megawatts of total solar energy generating capacity. A month later, ASU was named the Solar Partner of the Year by the Solar Electric Power Association.
Photo by: Thomas Perez, Skyview Helicam

Visitors to the Valley of the Sun who peer out their airplane windows while flying into Sky Harbor International Airport can see the glimmer from nearly 2,100 solar panels perched atop Wells Fargo Arena. The nearly 500-kilowatt installation lets the world know that ASU’s passion for harnessing the Sun’s rays and commitment to employing renewable energy continues moving forward.

The Wells Fargo Arena installation became active exactly two months after a solar structure came online at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The 77-kilowatt Cronkite system marks ASU’s third campus of four to begin generating solar energy and was commemorated with an early-December event attended by officials from the City of Phoenix, Arizona Public Service and ASU.

The Fall 2011 semester marked bright times for ASU's solar initiatives. In early August, ASU announced construction plans for the PowerParasol – a 5.25-acre, first-of-its-kind solar-panel project by Arizona-based Strategic Solar Energy, LLC – designed to shade 800 parking spaces in Lot 59 on the Tempe campus. The PowerParasol came online in late December and the shaded space under the structures now is open for parking.

In early September, ASU surpassed 10 megawatts of total solar energy generating capacity when the 700-panel, 168-kilowatt Verde Dickey Dome structure became active on the ASU Tempe campus. The 10-megawatt pinnacle boosted ASU’s leadership in higher education for solar energy generation in the United States. To mark the momentous achievement, the university celebrated 10 megawatts with a ceremony attended by fiscal and energy partners at the ASU West campus.

A month later, ASU was named the Solar Partner of the Year by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). The award was created by SEPA to recognize the value that a solar partner can bring a utility in the development and/or implementation of a solar project.

At the end of 2011, ASU had 55 systems comprised of more than 58,000 panels with the capacity to generate 14.5 megawatts of solar energy. The support of third-party business partners who have invested more than $121 million into ASU’s solar program has been critical to reaching this leading position in higher education solar power production. These financial commitments ensure that the university has a reduced capital investment over time.  

The university’s leading solar energy-generation capacity also is made possible in part by the APS Renewable Energy Incentive program for our Tempe, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses. Our first solar projects at the Polytechnic campus currently are under way and mark a new venture with Salt River Project (SRP). ASU is poised to reach 15.3 megawatts before the end of the Spring 2012 semester and will have solar installations operating on all four campuses and at the ASU Research Park.

Since ASU introduced the first 34-kilowatt solar panel system to the Tempe campus in 2004 on the Tyler Street parking structure, the university has made tremendous strides in its solar program. As ASU continues toward its 20 megawatt goal in 2014, it upholds a pledge to reduce its carbon footprint and implement sustainability-minded solutions into the campus community.

To learn more about the university's solar initiatives visit http://asusolar.asu.edu/.

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