May 17, 2010 11:29 PM
One future renewable energy project will be the first of its kind — and it’s one step closer to coming to Yuma County after the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday.
The Yuma Sun previously reported on a planned solar research project at Arizona Western College.
The project will include 5 1-megawatt systems and cover five different types of solar collection that will enable researchers to have data that’s never before been produced, said Bruce Mercy with PPA Partners Inc. (PPA), the lead contractor on the project.
“Nowhere in the country, no where in the world is there a (research) demonstration like this,” Mercy said.
Monday, supervisors authorized PPA to pursue $22 million in Yuma County Recovery Zone Facility Bonds to help finance the $30 million project. The money is a bond that will be repaid by PPA and is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Because the five different systems can run simultaneously and will be in the same area, it will be a unique research facility for solar, Mercy said. And all of the systems are designed for a utility-sized demonstration and test, he said.
PPA will share the data with the college, which could also entice research teams to come.
“The data from this field is probably one of the most valuable components of this project,” he said. “(It’s) one of the greatest carrots that we can put out there.”
There will also be an opportunity for solar manufacturing facilities in the future, Mercy said, citing that manufacturing facilities generally locate within 60 miles of research facilities.
In addition, Mercy said the college is working on developing curriculum including advanced degrees because of the project.
PPA will fund the $30 million through two revenue sources: one from revenues from Arizona Public Service, and another from a federal tax grant.
In addition to being the largest solar array at a college or university, the project at AWC will supply the college with 100 percent of its power — a major cost savings to the college.
In 10 years, the project is expected to save the college $3.5 million, in 15 years save $15.4 million, and in 30 years, the college is expected to save almost $54 million.
And with the bright, sunny days in Yuma County, it’s the perfect place to house the project, Mercy said.
“There should be solar on everything here,” he said.
The project, he said, will have a great impact on solar research.
“We’re taking it to a degree not even considered up to this point.”
The project is expected to go online Dec. 1.
Stephanie A. Wilken can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857.