Salt River Project plans to add 200 megawatts of solar generation every year for the next five years, adding to its existing 800 MW renewable portfolio. By the end of its fiscal year 2025, SRP will have a total of more than 1,200 MW of solar energy capacity. The utility goal is to have 20% green generation by 2025, by adding renewable generation and battery storage.
The plan is part of the non-profit utility’s SRP 2035 long term growth plan, as laid out at the close of its 2018 fiscal year in April, as the FY19/FY20 Action Plan Summary.
The utility put out a request for proposals earlier this year and has not estimated total cost yet, but expects to save money with the program from replaced fuel costs, says Jeff Lane, a company spokesman.
The plan was announced November 15 by SRP General Manager Mike Hummel, who said, “This proposal represents a growing commitment to sustainability that is both reliable and affordable. It focuses on investments in utility-scale solar projects that have higher solar capture efficiencies and therefore provide optimal value for our customers.”
SRP is a community-based public power utility that is not regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission. It is the largest provider of electricity in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving more than 1 million customers.
While the bulk of the megawatts of solar to be added to the system will be industrial scale, SRP has a substantial rooftop solar program and will continue to expand it as well, Hummel noted. SRP already has close to 180 MW of residential and commercial solar, which is expected to nearly double over the utility scale solar expansion program term. The utility operates its Earthwise Energy program that enables retail customers to choose to allocate 25%, 50% or 100% of their electricity use to a mix of solar, wind and biomass.
SRP paid over $150 million in solar incentives to approximately 20,000 customers between August 2004 and April 2018, and has paid $205 million since May 2008 in energy efficiency incentives to customers, resulting in more than 15 million megawatt-hours saved, the utility says. These programs resulted in an overall 2.14% annual incremental energy savings exceeding the 2% annual target.
By 2025, SRP expects to capture 11% of its energy needs from solar and avoid another 11% of its current supply level from energy-efficiency measures. SRP now procures 16% of its energy needs through its share in the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. The utility has announced plans with other owners to close the Navajo Generating Station coal-fired power plant in December 2019.
The utility plans for energy storage include a March announcement that it will purchase a 25 MW/100 MW-hour battery storage system from Tesla, to be installed at the Agua Fria Generating Station in Glendale. The purchase is part of an agreement to end a 2015 suit by Tesla against SRP alleging that the utility was discouraging solar development by rate design. SRP also agreed to initiate a Customer Storage Incentive Program that will provide incentives to residential customers that purchase energy storage systems.
One solar project now under construction is the 28 MW Kayenta II project being developed for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and expected to be online by June 2019, mirroring the Kayenta 1 project. SRP will provide technical support in developing interconnection facilities for this project and other large-scale renewable developments within the Navajo Nation. SRP also will provide procurement and financing expertise related to the development and ownership of such projects, the utility says.
The Navajo Nation and SRP have committed to work together toward the development of up to 500 MW of renewable energy projects on Navajo land over the next five to 10 years, the utility adds. Revenue from these projects will go toward financing the Light Up The Navajo Nation joint program with the American Public Power Association, dedicated to the electrification of homes on the Navajo Nation, SRP adds.
To ensure that the SRP grid is reliable in the future, the utility also plans to enable smart homes and businesses to incorporate private energy resources like rooftop solar, electric vehicles, demand response and energy efficiency options, and other evolving technologies, SRP says. The company also plans on completing the installation of the next generation of advanced meters and enhanced communication infrastructure, and developing new ways for customers to more effectively control their energy usage and costs. The latter includes a broad effort to employ data analytics to improve the customer experience, the utility adds.