Solar installations is sign of growing green economy

Sep 21, 2012, 2:08 PM | Updated: 2:08 pm
...

BUCKEYE, Ariz. — Covering the 1 million-square-foot roof of a Walmart distribution center, these 14,000 solar panels will produce 30 percent of the building’s energy needs.

To Gary Pierce, a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission who attended a dedication here recently, it’s a sign that renewable energy is on a roll.

“I clearly see it growing into the future as we do more and more solar and other projects to bring green energy to Arizona,” he said.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a national trade association, reported earlier this month that Arizona ranked second in the nation in installation of photovoltaic solar panels in the quarter that ended in March.

Arizona now has over 620 megawatts of photovoltaic solar energy capacity, enough to power about 80,000 homes, and the group expects that number to double by the end of next year.

“This report shows the trajectory of Arizona in comparison to other states and is a great indicator,” said Lon Huber, Arizona lead for the SEIA. “We’ve had some hugely innovative projects that have come online recently that have propelled us to second place.”

The growth includes residential and commercial installations as well as much larger power plants like Agua Caliente and Solana, which are due online in 2013, the group noted.

Gov. Jan Brewer seized on the report, issuing a news release praising Arizona’s standing in photovoltaic installations and adding incorrectly that SEIA ranked Arizona second in the nation in renewable energy production.

But by any measure, advocates and political leaders say, solar power is creating a major industry in a state rich in sunshine.

“Solar energy means not only clean and renewable energy but also quality jobs for Arizona,” said Kevin Kinsall, Brewer’s natural resources policy adviser.

Rioglass Solar, a company that recently opened a $50 million facility in Surprise, has 81 employees splitting three shifts, 24 hours a day, five days a week. The firm is supplying nearly 1 million mirrors to Solana, which is under construction in Gila Bend.

“The solar industry sooner or later is going to take over as the main clean energy in Arizona,” said Jordi Villanueva, the company’s business development manager.

According to the National Solar Jobs Census 2011, over the past year, U.S. solar jobs increased at nearly 10 times the rate of the rest of the economy.

SEIA’s Lon Huber noted that Arizona’s solar industry already employs 5,000 people.

“You can see how we’re growing, and we can become a major part of the Arizona economy,” Huber said.

The company that installed the solar panels on the Walmart project, SolarCity, has expanded to five operations centers in the state with a workforce of more than 180.

“Solar is already a major industry in Arizona,” said Albert Laird, SolarCity’s regional vice president. “Arizona’s solar energy production increased 333 percent from 2010 to 2011.”

Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, a member of the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said Arizona’s solar industry is providing jobs and innovation, though there is always room for improvement.

“We are pushing towards No. 1,” she said. “Arizona ‘the solar capital’ would be fabulous.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Putting World)...
KTAR.com

Putting World, with 18-hole indoor course, opens in Scottsdale

Putting World, a new putting venue featuring an 18-hole indoor course, opened in Scottsdale.
24 hours ago
(ADOT Photo)...
KTAR.com

Here are the top 10 most popular specialty license plates in Arizona in 2022

The Arizona Department of Transportation on Wednesday released its 10 most popular custom plates designs of 2022. There was a repeat winner.
24 hours ago
The WM Phoenix Open is a major economic driver. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...
Kevin Stone

2022 WM Phoenix Open drove economic impact of over $450M, study finds

The WM Phoenix Open pumped nearly half a billion dollars into the local economy last year, according to an economic impact study.
24 hours ago
(Getty Images Photos)...
Kevin Stone

Bryan Adams running to Phoenix with help from Joan Jett

Bryan Adams’ So Happy It Hurts Tour comes to Footprint Center in Phoenix this summer with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
24 hours ago
Armando Real (Photo via Arizona Department of Public Safety)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert issued for Phoenix man last seen near 24th Street and Buckeye

Authorities issued a Silver Alert on Thursday for a missing Phoenix man who was last seen a day earlier near 24th Street and Buckeye Road.
24 hours ago
(City of Buckeye Photo)...
KTAR.com

Buckeye to move forward with $80 million water rights agreement

A West Valley city has secured a source of water for a minimum of 100 years after approving an $80 million deal this week.
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Solar installations is sign of growing green economy