view from the states
Despite adverse economy,
Arizona Moves Toward the Sun
With supportive policies, solar gains momentum.
By DaN aieLLO
Dan Aiello (j2envarch
aol.com) is principal
architect at Janus II
tects in Scottsdale and
past chair of the Ari-
zona Solar Energy Asso-
ciation (ASEA). Vivian
Harte, current chair
of ASEA, helped in pre-
paring this article.
Despite economic challenges, Arizona has begun
to take advantage of its clear desert skies. Until
recently, the state’s utilities had to import renewable energy, mainly from out-of-state wind farms. Now we
might someday be a net exporter of solar power, sending
electricity to California to help our neighbors meet their
renewable power goals.
construction and Business
The number of Arizona construction jobs fell 38
percent between 2006 and 2008. New housing permits fell
20 percent to their lowest level in 25 years. But green
builders are holding up far better than standard builders.
The demand for skilled solar installers and solar design
expertise remains strong.
More than 30 percent of new construction in Scottsdale
falls under the city’s voluntary Green Building program.
More than 78 percent of new houses use some passive
solar design elements.
Towns and counties
across the state have
begun to craft LEED or
While solar stocks have
been down as much as 60
percent since the credit
crisis last fall, firms with a
technological lead appear
to have enough capital on
hand to finance projects.
Solar installations appear to be maintaining a
30 to 40 percent growth
rate. Tempe-based First
Solar recently completed, for Southern California Edison,
the first stage of 250 megawatts of thin-film photovoltaic
(PV) arrays planned for the region. The Scottsdale Hyatt
hotel finished installation of a 166-panel water-heating
system, producing 100,000 gallons (370,000 liters) of water per day.
tucson electric Power (teP)
will expand its Springer-ville photovoltaic generating plant. the array began
producing in 2001. Capacity is now 4. 6 megawatts,
and the plant will expand
to 8 megawatts.
up the state’s original environmental portfolio standard
(EPS), which mandates 15 percent renewably sourced
electricity by 2025, including 30 percent from rooftop
installations. The commission issued its final approval for
net-metering rules in October.
The Omnibus Energy Bill, sponsored last year by Rep.
Lucy Mason, is again before the Republican-dominated
state legislature. Its 55 provisions call for dramatic improvements in the energy efficiency of homes built in large
developments, schools and state-owned buildings. It exempts residential solar power installations from property
taxes and extends the 15 percent EPS to cover the state’s
largest utility company, the Salt River Project (SRP),
which serves 900,000 customers. SRP opposes the 30 percent carve-out for distributed energy, arguing that utility-scale installations are more cost-effective. Advocates argue
that the distributed rule benefits homeowners, small businesses and a growing installer industry.
Representatives from the Arizona Solar Energy Association and the Arizona Solar Center, with assistance from
Vote Solar, are working with Mason to help Coconino
County, Tucson, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Pima County
implement local environmental improvement districts on
a voluntary opt-in basis. This will require a change in a state
law. Bills are also being drafted to establish incentives for
renewable energy manufacturing.
The Arizona Department of Commerce’s Energy Office manages without state funding. It depends chiefly
on what’s left of the federal Oil Overcharge Restitution
program, a fund established in 1986 to recoup price-goug-ing by oil companies after the original OPEC oil embargo
of 1974. Despite its poverty, the energy office under Gov.
Janet Napolitano evolved into a valuable resource, providing technical assistance for a wide variety of renewable energy projects, a tribal energy program, energy performance
reviews for schools and state-owned buildings, training
and certification programs and weatherization assistance.
The five-member Arizona Corporation Commission,
which has oversight of five major utility companies, now
has three pro-renewable members: Chair Kristin Mayes,
Paul Newman and Sandra Kennedy. The commission set
cities and counties
Scottsdale requires all new municipal buildings to
meet LEED gold standards. Recent projects under this
rule include a new main fire station and the Granite Reef
Senior Center, with more new buildings scheduled for
completion in 2009.
Coconino County has established an aggressive and
effective Green Building Program, promoted and