More than one million solar panels are hard at work in the Arizona desert producing clean power for APS customers. These photovoltaic panels are part of the APS AZ Sun Program, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year.
The program has experienced many successes along the way, further positioning Arizona as a solar leader and bringing APS customers exactly what they want – more energy produced from the sun. The one million panels – most of which maximize the sun’s energy by following it across the sky – have produced more than one billion kilowatt hours since the first APS plant came on line in 2011.
“Our customers don’t typically give much thought to the energy we produce and send to their homes; they just want that light to turn on at the flip of a switch,” said Mark Schiavoni, APS Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “But on hot summer days, when our customers are using the most amount of energy, we need generation resources that can match their energy demands and ensure continued reliability in every corner of the state. Our AZ Sun Program and its nine solar plants are delivering exactly what they were meant to on sunny days – electricity from sun up to sun down.”
APS owns and operates the facilities, which were designed and constructed by third-party solar developers, contractors and equipment providers. Nearly 2,000 jobs were created during the construction of the nine plants.
Due to economies of scale, and the fact that the majority of these facilities utilize trackers that allow the panels to follow the sun across the sky, grid-scale solar is the most cost effective and efficient way to produce solar power, conserve water and avoid carbon emissions.
With summer fast approaching, one of the primary benefits of grid-scale solar will be put on center stage – its ability to continue to generate power in the afternoon. In 2015, APS customers consumed the highest amount of electricity at 5 p.m. on August 15. When this energy spiked, APS continued to receive 140 megawatts from AZ Sun plants – 80 percent of their 170 MW capacity.
“We monitor the system around the clock to ensure we always have enough power to meet the energy needs of our customers,” Schiavoni said. “When we’re talking about a peak of more than 7,000 MW in one single moment, that 140 MW might not seem like a lot. But it’s invaluable. And, it’s Arizona generated solar power – what could be better?”