Arizona Public Service (APS) is launching a innovative pilot project in Flagstaff that could ultimately provide a substantial increase in the number of solar rooftops nationwide.
As envisioned in a proposal filed May 11 with the Arizona Corporation Commission, the APS Community Power Project will bring solar panels to the rooftops of homes and businesses with no upfront costs to customers.
The panels will become an interconnected renewable power plant. This pilot project will enable APS to measure system impacts and to better understand the total customer experience with technology.
APS will own, operate and receive energy from solar panels on eligible customer rooftops.
The company will hire solar contractors to install and maintain the systems. Customers will receive a long-term community power rate for the solar portion of their bill, which will remain fixed at a level equivalent to what they pay today, for 20 years.
“The APS Community Power Project will provide our customers another easy option to going solar while further accelerating the solar industry in Arizona,” said APS Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Don Brandt.
“The project eliminates upfront costs of more than $10,000 to each customer, which we know from our experience has been a major deterrent to distributed solar systems here and elsewhere.”
“We want to make solar energy affordable to everyone,” he said.
APS intends to generate 1.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the Community Power Project.
Under the current plan, 200 to 300 qualified participants will be interconnected with the electrical grid along a single electric distribution area, or feeder, in northeast Flagstaff. This area, which serves approximately 3,000 residential and business customers, is bounded by Wupatki Trail to the north, Railhead Avenue to the south, Kochfield Road to the east and Timberline Estates to the west.
Additionally, APS will install utility-scale bans of solar panels and small wind turbines in the test area.
The company also plans to install 50 solar water heaters in the pilot area on homes of customers with limited incomes.
The APS Community Power project will benefit from ongoing Smart Grid initiatives in Flagstaff, where automated meters and switches on lines and substation equipment are being installed to provide enhanced two-way communications with APS.
While the investment in the pilot project will total $14.7 million, it will not result in an increase to customer bills because much of the funding is included in the Renewable Energy Standard surcharge already collected. Arizona’s RES requires 15 percent of APS’s generation come from renewable resources by 2025.
“The ACC has shown great leadership and support of renewable energy and solar power in particular,” Brandt said.
“We believe this is the type of innovation they have encouraged, and they will be vital partners as we test the possibilities for community-powered solar energy in Arizona.”
APS plans to use renewable energy to meet 1,600 MW of the more than 4,000 MW of growth in energy consumption expected over th next 15 to 20 years.
While much of this energy will come from central power stations, such as Sedona, a 280-MW concentrating solar facility planned for 2012 near Gila Bend, 30 percent of the RES is required to be generated from distributed sources, such as rooftop solar installations.
“This project provides great advantages to all Arizonans because of its broad-based benefits to the environment and to the economy. The initiative also stimulates the market for solar manufacturers and installers,” Brandt said.
“On the APS side, we will be the first utility in the nation to offer a fixed rate in exchange for hosting a system. We will also be one of the first to study and fully understand the impact on the electrical system when high concentrations of customers are producing renewable energy that goes on the grid.”
More information on the APS Community Power project can be found at www.aps.com/communitypower.
Information on current ACC-approved APS renewable energy programs for customers can be found at www.aps.com/ greenchoice.