Solar Power in Arizona
Arizona’s solar leadership may not come as a surprise to anyone who has visited the state. It boasts some of the sunniest weather in the U.S., with 3 of the top 5 sunniest cities in the country according to the National Climatic Data Center. More specifically, Arizona also maintains one of the highest average daily solar radiation amounts in the country making it ideal for solar power. In addition, economic factors also weigh in favor of solar adoptions. Most homeowners in Arizona in the state pay on average around 11 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, which varies depending on the utility company and the time of year. In addition, electricity rates are steadily increasing particularly during peak times of the year. In fact, Arizona Public Service Co., the largest utility provider in Arizona, has filed a preliminary notice with the state indicating that it will seek a rate increase beginning in 2012.
These favorable conditions have helped Arizona solar power jump to an early lead in the solar industry, with the fourth highest installed solar PV capacity among U.S. states. In fact, Arizona solar energy made substantial strides in 2010 by installing over 63 megawatts of solar power, doubling its 2009 output of 21 megawatts, ranking it fourth in the U.S. According to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, the total amount of photovoltaic panels installed on roofs in the U.S. was approximately 878 megawatt…this was double the 435 megawatts installed in 2009 around the U.S. Despite some cutbacks in Arizona solar incentives in 2010, Arizona ranked behind only California solar (259 megawatts), with New Jersey and Nevada ranking second and third respectively.
Arizona’s increased solar installations was helped by federal incentives as well as those from state sponsored programs at Arizona Public Service Co. and Salt River Project. In addition, Arizona has been pushing for a solar manufacturing cluster with some success at luring manufacturing. Last year, China-based Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. and California-based inverter manufacturer Power-One Inc. were among the newest solar manufacturers to move their facilities to Arizona, which already includes other solar companies in Arizona such as thin-film solar giant, First Solar.
Arizona’s government institutions have supported this growth legislatively by blazing a trail that other states may eventually follow. The Arizona Corporation Commission has set an aggressive goal of generating 15% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources, including solar power, by 2025. In real dollars, Arizona’s regulated utility companies have been mandated by the Arizona Corporation Commission to spend more than $185 million to subsidize energy efficiency projects and renewable energy (solar power) programs in 2009, and more than $1.2 billion through 2025. (Source: ACC)
Arizona has also created a program to help maintain the safety and integrity of its solar industry with the Arizona Solar Watchdog Program. The purpose of this program is to teach potential solar consumers how to check Arizona solar companies license, credentials and work history. To help give this program added teeth, every contractor, including solar contractors, in Arizona needs to be registered with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors where they are issued a license number which can then be looked up using the step-by-step process outlined under the Arizona Solar Watchdog Program.