|Aerial view of ground-mounted solar arrays at Soaring Heights Communities, Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona.|
Housing developer Actus Lend Lease, SolarCity, Tucson Electric Power, and financing parties National Bank of Arizona and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation are working to create one of the nation’s largest distributed, community-wide solar power systems at Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Upon completion, the community is expected to be the largest solar-powered community in the continental U.S. The solar systems are expected to produce more than 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually — sufficient to provide an estimated 75 percent of the residents’ energy use next year — and could eventually offset 100 percent of Soaring Heights Communities’ electricity use.
Soaring Heights Communities at Davis-Monthan will also be Arizona’s largest solar-powered community. The complete installation is expected to include six megawatts of total solar capacity in a combination of a ground-mounted photovoltaic system and rooftop solar systems that will be installed on approximately 900 residences. National Bank of Arizona will own the 45,000 panel ground-mounted system, which accounts for more than 3.3 megawatts of solar capacity. The balance of the system is expected to consist of 36,000 more panels in the rooftop arrays. The rooftop systems are being financed within an existing SolarCity fund, which was financed by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) earlier this year.
The solar systems will be designed and installed by SolarCity and will be interconnected by TEP. The entire project is estimated to represent an increase of more than 15 percent over Arizona’s current grid-tied solar capacity. Collectively, the installation is expected to offset more than 570 million pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, the equivalent of taking approximately 50,000 cars off the road for a year, or planting more than 300,000 trees.
Soaring Heights Communities will also be one of the first solar-powered communities on an Air Force Base in the U.S. Actus Lend Lease is currently developing one of the world’s largest solar powered communities at its Army Hawaii Family Housing complex. Upon completion, the Army Hawaii Family Housing project will be the largest solar-powered community in the U.S. Through its partnership with the U.S. Air Force, Actus Lend Lease leases Soaring Heights Communities homes to military families.
“We are very excited about the Soaring Heights Communities project because it allows us to leverage our background and expertise in renewable energy initiatives as they relate to community development,” said Dale Connor, Actus Lend Lease managing director. “We look forward to working closely with our partners and the Department of Defense to set a standard for sustainable living here in Arizona and throughout the country.”
Starting earlier this month, SolarCity began installing 1,000 PV modules per day on previously vacant land near Soaring Heights Communities. Homes in the community have been selected for solar installations based on their specific location and suitability for solar panels. Most of the homes selected for solar system installations are new dwellings built to the rigorous energy efficiency standards of TEP’s Guarantee Home Program, while some are existing homes.
“As Arizona’s largest community bank, and driver in the growth of our state’s economy, National Bank of Arizona is making a sound investment in Arizona’s renewable energy future by funding the ground-mounted solar array. We’re pleased to finance what will generate positive economic and environmental impact in Arizona,” said Craig Robb, National Bank of Arizona executive vice president and chief financial officer.
TEP will provide incentives through its customer-funded SunShare program to reduce the long-term cost of Soaring Heights Communities’ photovoltaic installation. Both systems’ output will help TEP work toward the renewable energy goals established by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC).
“Through the SunShare incentives that make this project possible, every TEP customer will be invested in the success of this remarkable new solar-powered community,” said David Hutchens, vice president of energy efficiency and resource planning for TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corporation. “This project will help shrink the carbon footprint of Tucson’s largest military base while setting a new standard for distributed solar power systems.”
SolarCity will be outfitting the solar systems with SolarGuard monitoring systems to measure solar electricity production, and to measure the performance of the ground-mounted arrays against the rooftop arrays. The monitors will ensure that the system performs as predicted and inform both SolarCity and TEP about how such arrays might interact with the smart grid of the future.
“Soaring Heights Communities is truly a solar city, and our largest installation to date,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. “We expect this project to be a springboard for additional clean power development in Arizona, one of the best locations for solar in the world.”
SolarCity — a national leader in solar power system design, financing, installation, monitoring, and related services — was founded with the mission to help millions of homeowners and businesses adopt solar power, protect themselves from rising electricity costs and protect their environment from polluting power sources. The company’s SolarLease, PurePower, and Commercial Power Purchase Agreement options can make it possible for homeowners and businesses to switch to clean, solar power for less money than they currently pay for electricity. SolarCity currently serves more than 500 communities in California, Arizona, and Oregon.
Read Large-Scale Solar Power Systems: Construction and Economics from Amazon.