Solar project planned at Foothills-area site

Apr. 4th, 2012
Joyce Lobeck

A site in the Yuma area will become home to the first solar plant on state trust land in Arizona. When completed, the 35-megawatt Foothills Solar Plant will serve Yuma-area customers, generating enough power for approximately 8,750 homes. The plant will be located on nearly 400 acres off 40th Street between Foothills Boulevard and Fortuna Road, said Jenna Shaver, spokeswoman for Arizona Public Service Co., which is developing the project in coordination with the Arizona State Land Department. For the past eight months, the State Land Department has sought to identify state trust land sites suitable for solar development. With these locations in mind, State Land Commissioner Maria Baier approached APS about building a solar plant on state trust land. This led to an independent assessment by APS to determine the most suitable development location for its next solar plant — and the Foothills site was selected, Shaver explained. The plant will be APS’ fifth AZ Sun project to date and the largest, Shaver said. All of the electricity produced from the new facility will stay in Yuma County to serve local residents. “We saw a need in Yuma for local generation,” Shaver said. “Our goal was to get a facility in the area.” Groundbreaking on the Foothills Solar Plant will start in August and be completed next year, she said. The plant is expected to come online in two phases — the first 17 MW will reach commercial operation by March 2013; the remaining 18 MW will reach commercial operation by December 2013. APS has hired Atlanta, Ga.-based AMEC to construct the facility. During construction, the project will create more than 100 jobs. The cost to APS for a 35-year lease on the land is $10 million, which will go primarily to help fund Arizona public education. “This collaboration furthers our ongoing efforts to establish Arizona as a global leader in renewable energy,” Gov. Jan Brewer said in announcing the project. “The project will bring quality solar jobs to Arizona and dollars to support our state’s public schools — all while utilizing Arizona’s most abundant resource, the sun, to generate clean and renewable energy. It’s the first of many solar projects that will benefit the entire state and cement our status as the ‘Solar King.’” Added Don Brandt, APS chairman and chief executive officer: “Through our growing investment in solar energy, we are helping the environment, creating jobs and protecting our customers against potentially volatile fuel prices. It is a commitment we share with Gov. Brewer, the Arizona Corporation Commission and other key decision makers in Arizona. Together, we have taken another important step toward creating a sustainable energy future for Arizona.” The AZ Sun Program was approved by the ACC and enables APS to invest in the development of up to 200 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power plants across Arizona. APS will finance and own the projects, which are being designed and constructed by third-party solar developers, contractors and equipment providers. The Arizona State Land Department manages 9.3 million acres of Arizona State Trust Land. The proceeds from land sales and leases of the land help fund schools in the state.

Joyce  Lobeck
Sun Staff Writer
Yuma Sun
Apr. 4th, 2012