|Solar Zone at UA TechPark|
|Bell Powers New Solar Technology|
A 200-acre slice of sun-baked earth within the confines of The University of Arizona Science and Technology Park is now a designated Solar Zone that advocates view as the centerpiece that could help Tucson become one of the leading solar energy producers and innovators in the world.
The Solar Zone at 9000 S. Rita Road just off Interstate 10 will host commercial solar energy ventures dedicated to all
aspects of this nascent industry.
Bruce A. Wright, associate vice president for University Research Parks for the UA, said that Southern Arizona – with its abundance of sunlight, availability of land, talented workforce, rapid construction permitting, connection to university assets and regional commitment to solar and other renewable energy – has the potential to become a global leader in the future of clean energy technologies.
Wright said there are five components desired for this Solar Zone:
• Using solar energy to generate electricity, either with photo voltaic panels or with parabolic reflectors that concentrate the sun’s energy on pipes to produce steam to spin turbines that turn generators
• Research and development to improve efficiency of solar power generation to reduce costs and improve storage processes, so energy from solar can provide power at night or on cloudy days
• Manufacture and distribution of solar energy hardware
• Workforce education for all phases of solar equipment, from manufacturing to installation.
• Education and awareness, an initiative to help the local community understand how the public can employ solar energy for everyday use
The Tech is moving toward adopting renewable energy as its power source. In the works is a plan to install covered parking areas using solar panels for the parking covers, he said.
“The park already is a remarkable facility,” Wright said. All non-potable water used at the park is from reclaimed sources. Not a drop is dumped into the sewer. All new construction must meet LEED standards, an internationally recognized green building certification system. In addition, buildings in the area, constructed by IBM in the 1970s, are being retrofitted as much as possible to LEED standards.
Success in the new Solar Zone will require world-class companies working to increase Southern Arizona’s renewable energy capacity, develop cutting-edge solar products, foster imaginative next-generation technology and establish a solar demonstration model.
Key in that effort is luring new industry and talent to the region, Wright said.
The UA Tech Park is the anchor of the growing Tucson Tech Corridor, one of the largest employment centers in the metro area.
“The Solar Zone will clearly complement this area of metro-Tucson,” Wright said. Ideally, companies will work not only on their own business interests, but also team up with Tech Park and key regional partners to influence the solar strategy of the region.
Already Bell Independent Power Corp. of Rochester, NY plans to start construction this summer on a 5-megawatt solar plant with a thermal storage system that will be the first of its kind in the world.
Bell, the developer of Thermal Storage Technology for Concentrate Solar Power, has pledged to commercially demonstrate its proprietary system and show how it can improve the efficiency of such a facility by 50 percent.
Bell project’s proposed cost is estimated at $32 million, and it will use 45 acres for parabolic solar reflectors, according to a report by Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities (TREO). The solar plant is expected to begin providing power to Tucson Electric Power customers by May 2011.
The Concentrate Solar Power plant and storage system could produce enough energy to power more than 1,500 typical Tucson homes while offsetting more than 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
TEP has already agreed to purchase Bell solar power for 20 years. TEP and other state utilities are under a mandate from the Arizona Corporation Commission to increase their use of renewable energy each year, reaching at least 15 percent of their retail energy production no later than 2025.
This new Solar Zone in the Tech Park can contribute significant value to the region economically and environmentally, Wright said.
“A lot of big ideas are being generated at the Tech Park – and this is one of those big ideas.”