KINGMAN, USA: UniSource Energy Services is unveiling a new program that allows electric customers to buy solar energy directly from two recently completed solar generating systems in Mohave County.
The systems' combined 1.7 megawatt (MW) output will be sold directly to customers through UES' new Bright Arizona Community Solar program. Beginning this month, energy from the arrays will be available to UES electric customers in 150 kilowatt-hour (kWh) "blocks" that will add $3 apiece to monthly bills. Customers can purchase some or all of their energy through the program, reducing or eliminating their use of conventional power for an affordable price.
"Electric customers who want to power their home or business with solar energy can now stake their claim to the output of these solar power systems," said Paul Bonavia, chairman and CEO of UES and its parent company, UniSource Energy. "While investing in your own rooftop solar power system is still a great option, the Bright Arizona Community Solar program offers an easy, affordable way to go green by essentially sharing solar arrays with other electric customers."
For 2012, UES has 1,720 blocks of solar energy available for purchase from two solar systems:
* The 1.22 MW single-axis tracking photovoltaic (PV) array at La Senita Elementary School in Kingman. The array, UES' first utility-scale renewable energy system, was built by Tucson-based SOLON Corp. and features more than 5,000 solar panels.
* A 500-kilowatt solar array developed as part of Western Wind Energy's integrated wind and solar system southwest of Kingman.
Additional blocks could become available as UES expands its local solar generating resources. The company will invest approximately $5 million this year in renewable energy systems and is currently looking to expand its development in Mohave and Santa Cruz counties.
Because solar power costs more than energy from traditional resources, participating in the program will increase customers' electric bills — at least for now. Each block replaces an equivalent amount of conventional power at a rate that will remain fixed for 20 years under rules approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). That means participants can lock in a steady supply of green power at a price that could generate significant savings if the cost of fossil-fueled power increases.
"The program is perfect for renters, property owners whose rooftops aren't fully exposed to the sun or anyone who wants the benefits of solar energy without the upfront cost or complications," said David Hutchens, president of UES and UniSource Energy.
UES' solar energy resources help the company comply with Arizona's Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which requires Arizona utilities to increase their use of renewable power each year until it represents 15 percent of their energy in 2025. In 2012, the policy calls on UES to secure 3.5 percent of its power from renewables, including solar energy, wind, biogas and other resources.