Whether we harness the sun’s energy from large community arrays or smaller rooftop systems, solar energy plays an important role in helping us build a cleaner, greener grid.
We’re working to deliver 70 percent of our energy from renewable sources by 2035 to help reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. “Achieving that goal will require a number of strategies, including supporting customers who want to do their part for a cleaner energy future,” said Erik Bakken, Vice President of System Operations and Energy Resources.
Here are five ways we’re harnessing more solar energy than ever:
1. We’re continually expanding our renewable resources.
In 2021, TEP doubled the capacity of our renewable resources by bringing massive new wind and solar projects online.
In our most recent project, 34 wind turbines at The Borderlands Wind Project began producing power in December. Ultimately, the 100-MW project will serve the annual electric needs of more than 26,000 homes. Earlier in the year, we opened the 250-MW Oso Grande Wind Project located near Roswell, New Mexico, that can meet the electric needs of about 100,000 homes. Our Wilmot Energy Center, operating south of the Tucson International Airport, also came online in 2021, including a 100-MW solar array, as well as a battery energy storage system.
Our latest project, Raptor Ridge, is expected to provide enough solar to serve the equivalent of 2,600 homes annually when it is completed in the spring.
In all, Raptor Ridge will join 21 solar photovoltaic systems in TEP’s renewable energy portfolio – all working together with our wind systems to power about 260,000 homes in our community every year.
“We’re working at a pace that significantly reduces carbon emissions without compromising on reliability or affordability,” Bakken noted. “Raptor Ridge and other large, community-scale renewable systems are part of a cleaner energy portfolio that are helping TEP work toward eliminating carbon emissions as soon as we can.”
2. We supported a record number of solar requests in 2021.
More residential customers sought to install private solar arrays in 2021, filing more than 7,100 applications for new systems. That’s up from about 4,400 applications in 2020, which itself was a record year.
TEP kept this aggressive pace even as designers, field technicians and other employees navigated new challenges and procedures during the persistent pandemic.
In total, more than 32,000 TEP customers have installed solar photovoltaic systems.
“Our customers are clearly excited about this transition to a new energy future, and we’re right there with them,” Bakken said.
3. We expanded the ability to safely connect new rooftop systems to TEP’s grid.
Connecting a solar power system is more complex than many people realize.
Because rooftop solar arrays generate energy that can flow into TEP’s local energy grid, they can affect the reliability of electric service for nearby homes and businesses. For that reason, the Arizona Corporation Commission established rules to ensure that each system meets requirements to ensure it won’t compromise safety or reliability or risk damage to customer equipment that might be sensitive to voltage irregularities and fluctuations.
Our renewable energy and engineering teams performed detailed circuit capacity studies and made adjustments to our system that allowed us to bring additional systems online without extensive design changes. We’re also exploring system upgrades to integrate additional renewable resources in the future as customer demands grow.
Ultimately, through a combination of actions including hosting capacity analysis, circuit protection enhancements and voltage conversion, we were able in December to open additional capacity on all 16 previously-limited circuits, allowing the addition of more residential systems without compromising safety or reliability.
4. We’re supporting broader access to participate in a cleaner energy future.
Not everyone can install their own rooftop solar array. That’s why we offer easy, affordable and flexible ways for customers to buy solar power from TEP to cover some or all of your energy use.
Our GoSolar programs allow you to purchase shares of energy from our community solar arrays.
It’s an ideal solution for those who want to support the new energy future but can’t afford their own system, or who rent, or whose rooftop has too much shade from trees or other buildings to effectively use a rooftop system.
5. Online tools provide more information to customers about solar options.
Thinking about going solar? If you’re looking to get a larger share of the sun, beyond the energy mix we’re already providing to our customers, you might consider participating in one of our GoSolar programs or installing a private rooftop array.
Our Solar Analysis tool is a service that helps you compare various solar options. You can use this tool to review the benefits and approximate costs of private solar based on your rooftop’s characteristics, energy use, our pricing plan and available tax credits and rebates. Then, see how this information compares with the benefits and costs of participating in our community-solar programs.
Start your solar analysis here.
“We’re committed to a cleaner energy future – and renewable energy unlocks that future for all of us,” Bakken said. “Solar is one key part of our energy portfolio as we look for innovative ways to meet both customer demand and our clean energy goals.”