Arizona solar energy plant gets green light from US-Mexico bank

science | Jan 18, 2012 | By Martin Barillas

The Board of Directors of the North American Development Bank (NADB) and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) approved certification and financing for the construction of a 6.1-megawatt (MW) solar energy plant to provide electricity to Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) in Tucson, Arizona. A loan of up to US$13.15 million for the construction of the new plant has been approved for AstroSol Tech Park AZ LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Astrosol Inc., a joint venture between solar panel manufacturer Astronergy Solar, Inc. and solar project developer Solmotion GmbH, Germany.  The project is being managed by vis solis LLC, TN, the U.S. subsidiary of Solmotion.

The electricity generated by the new plant will be purchased by TEP, and will primarily be used to serve the metropolitan area of Tucson. TEP serves more than 400,000 customers in southern Arizona, covering the city of Tucson, and numerous towns and unincorporated areas in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties. This project is part of TEP’s plan to comply with the renewable portfolio standard for utilities operating in the state of Arizona, which requires regulated electric utilities in Arizona to generate 15% of their energy from renewable resources by 2025.

The project consists of building a solar photovoltaic energy plant using thin film amorphous silicon modules mounted on a fixed-tilt racking structure based on azimuth positioning with a nameplate capacity of approximately 6.1 megawatts of electricity. The plant will be constructed on a 38.5 acre parcel within the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park (UASTP), in an area dedicated to solar energy. 

According to a press release from NADB, the environmental benefits related to this project include the displacement of over 7,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), 28 metric tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 44 metric tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) per year. In addition, the NADB says that project will form part of the UASTP Solar Zone, a research facility designed to enable various solar technologies to perform side by side, under identical operating conditions, in order to assess the most optimal technology and/or technological mix for solar energy production in the U.S. Southwest. 

Since June 2011 three solar energy projects have been certified by BECC and received financing approval from NADB for loans totaling US$179.1 million. These projects—one located in Niland, CA, and the other two in the Tucson, AZ area—together will generate 48.1 MWAC and help the local electricity service providers to comply with their respective state renewable portfolio standards. 

In its 17 years of operation, BECC has certified 189 environmental infrastructure projects along the U.S.-Mexico border. For its part, NADB is providing approximately US$1.33 billion in loans and grants to support 152 of those projects, which represents a total investment of US$3.28 billion and will benefit more than 13 million border residents. 

The NADB describes itself as a financial institution established and capitalized in equal parts by the United States and Mexico "for the purpose of financing environmental infrastructure projects along their common border." BECC "works to preserve, protect and enhance human health and the environment of the U.S.-Mexico border region, by strengthening cooperation among interested parties and supporting sustainable projects through a transparent binational process in close coordination with NADB," according to its website. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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