Published on August 3rd, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer0
Tucson Homeowners Can Pay Fixed Rate to Build Community Solar
August 3rd, 2010 by Susan Kraemer
A very innovative way to make it easy to put more solar on the grid is being pioneered by Tucson Electric Power (TEP) with The Bright Tucson Community Solar Program.
By buying $3 shares, individual utility customers can choose to own a portion of a 1.6 MW community solar project, a single-axis tracking PV array built at the future UA Science and Technology Park by a Tucson-based solar manufacturer and system developer, Solon. Renters as well as homeowners can participate.
Six of the $3 blocks, or $18 a month premium would cover the full monthly electric use of a typical household in Tucson, about 900 kWh a month. They can buy as many as they like, and, for now, it is added to their current electricity bill, as a premium.
But, unlike most electricity rates, the $3 rate they pay for each 150 kilowatt-hour block of solar power will remain fixed for 20 years.
Since each block offsets the cost of an equivalent amount of traditional generation, the price premium paid by program participants would effectively be reduced as those traditional energy charges increase.
Each block offsets the cost of an equivalent amount of traditional generation. So if they can reduce their electricity use, just like homeowners who put solar on their own roof, they would receive a credit towards future electricity use.
“Customers would have a chance to insulate themselves from the impact of new carbon taxes or other factors that could drive up the cost of power from traditional generating resources,” said David Hutchens, Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Resource Planning for TEP. “By locking in a slightly higher rate now for solar power, customers could end up realizing significant savings over the long term.”
Once the first 1.6 MW is fully subscribed, Tucson Electric Power will build more.
The utility has signed power purchase agreements with a dozen new solar power systems, and other renewable sources totaling 190 MW, enough energy to power nearly 40,000 Tucson homes. Those systems, which are being built by private developers, are scheduled to come online in 2011 and 2012, pending ACC approval, site selection and other contingencies. But one big obstacle is removed by this program. Local resistance. Some object to the size of solar projects which use about an acre a megawatt.
“Our customers will be able to drive past these arrays and know that they own a share of the energy they produce,” Hutchens said. “It’s a way to take ownership of solar energy in way that truly benefits our local electric system and the community as a whole.”