By Gabrielle Olson, ASU Lightworks
On March 27, 2014, Tempe’s South Water Treatment Plant hosted their first public solar tour. The tour highlighted the implementation of more than 3,000 solar panels that will generate more than 1.6 million kilowatt (kW) hours of electricity each year, supplying 15 percent of the plant’s energy needs. This achievement marks the city’s largest solar energy project thus far.
Sunny and without a cloud in the sky, the afternoon was at perfect condition for the solar panels. City of Tempe’s Energy Management Coordinator, Grace Kelly, and Environmental Services Manager, David McNeil, introduced themselves as tour guides. “I feel lucky because I get to go outside and work on this project every day,” McNeil said as he led guests toward the impressive display of solar panels.
Guests on the tour were free to walk around with Kelly and McNeil asking any questions they had about the solar project. The tour was without haste as guests had the opportunity to independently network with one another while pleasantly enjoying a first-hand look at the remarkable project.
Once the tour ended, guests were led back inside for a thorough presentation by Kelley, discussing the development of the project. Although it had been in the talks for a few years, Kelly explained that planning for the project officially began in early 2012. The first step was establishing the city’s Alternative Energy Committee, which aims to research the best energy practices and select sites for installations. The bid to issue Tempe South Water Treatment Plant with solar panels took place in December with submittals for the project due by March 2013. Out of the 10 vendors submitted for the proposal, SolarCity was selected to install the solar energy system along with the public power utility Salt River Project (SRP). The overall project only took about two years to complete with just six weeks needed for construction. Kelly saluted SolarCity, SRP, and the City of Tempe for their great work together in the partnership. Follow this link to view the entire Power Point presentation.
With 100 percent of the solar energy produced going into the plant, Tempe expects to save more than $25,500 in utility costs during the first year, and anticipates savings of $2.3 million over 20 years. Plans for the city’s next solar projects are already in the making. Future solar projects include a 250 kW facility at Tempe’s downtown Police/Courts building, a 900 kW system at Johnny G. Martinez Water Treatment Plant, and solar implementation at a library complex is in its planning phase. It is clear that Tempe is working toward establishing itself as a leading city committed to solar energy. Follow this link to SRP’s website to watch a brief virtual tour of the facility’s solar panels.
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