Solar power is popular where the sun shines.
array of projects offered by the Arizona Public Service Company (APS)
illustrates the diversity of solar power installations. APS now has
more than 5 MW of installed solar capacity statewide. APS' Flagstaff
solar plant produces 82 kW of solar power using a single-axis tracking
technology to maximize the intake of the sun's energy. APS installed
high-concentration photovoltaic arrays at the Glendale Municipal
Airport that track the sun's movement and concentrate the sun's rays
onto each solar cell. A solar-hybrid power system was installed at the
remote Gray Wolf Regional Landfill using photovoltaics and battery
storage. APS and the City of Scottsdale combined the need for covered
parking at a commercial building with clean energy generation,
resulting in an 8,500-square-foot parking structure covered with
photovoltaic panels that generate 93 kW.
In late February, APS
entered into an agreement with Abengoa Solar to build one of the
largest solar power plants, 280 MW, at a cost of $1 billion, in Gila
Bend, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. The Solana Generating Station
should be producing energy by 2011. APS will pay Abengoa $4 billion
over 30 years for the electricity it generates, tripling the amount of
renewable electricity APS produces. Unlike most solar collectors,
Solana will use the sun's heat instead of its light to produce power as
it trains thousands of parabolic mirrors to focus the sun's heat. This
heat will be used to heat liquid that can be used to power turbines
even when the sun is not shining.
APS President Don Brandt is
clearly thinking big when it comes to solar energy: "APS is committed
to making Arizona the solar capital of the world and bringing
affordable renewable energy to all our customers." It is not just the
green benefits that are important. APS estimates that the Solana
Generating station will create about 1,500 construction jobs and will
employ about 85 highly skilled people. Total economic benefits to the
state are estimated at more than $1 billion.
In Florida, FPL
Energy, a wholesale generation company and part of the FPL group that
includes Florida Power and Light, is a leader in wind energy but also
operates the two largest solar fields in the world. FPL also operates
55 wind farms in 16 states, with 5,000 MW capacity. FPL offers the
Sunshine Energy program to residential and commercial customers who
want to "go green." To ensure sufficient renewable energy to meet
program demand, FPL is building solar projects in Florida, including a
230 kW project at Rothenbach Park in Sarasota. A second project is
under construction at the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium.
utilities also can benefit from solar power. Austin Energy's
GreenChoice claims to be the nation's most successful utility-sponsored
green pricing program, with over 665 million kWh in subscriptions.
Austin has more green-powered businesses than any city in the nation.
To meet demand, Austin Energy augments wind power from fields in
McCamey and Sweetwater with several solar installations in Austin. Some
of the solar installations are on city buildings - the largest are at
the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, a large city parking
garage, and atop a hotel.
Utilities that operate in sunny
climates do not always go the solar route when investigating renewable
resources for their portfolios. Alabama Power, Georgia Power, and
Mississippi Power, all part of Southern Company, offer their customers
energy powered by biomass - sawdust, switchgrass, and landfill gas.
However, Gulf Power, another part of Southern Company, offers its
customers energy generated from photovoltaics.
Renewables are being integrated into energy conservation plans.
of energy shortages and higher prices, the utilities on the West Coast
have been using renewables as part of a plan to reduce dependence on
fossil fuel generation for many years. These utilities are bundling
their green power options with other programs and services for
businesses, helping them to get maximum benefit from every energy
dollar they spend.
A top green program belongs to Oregon's
Portland General Electric Company (PGE), which offers two renewable
energy programs for businesses. For small and mid-scale business, PGE's
Green Source option matches 100 percent of energy usage with several
types of renewable power. Large businesses can purchase a separate
Clean Wind product, where small units of renewable energy are purchased
for a set fee. PGE offers added inducements including free publicity
and advertising, depending on level of participation. Supporters are
included in advertisements that appear in local newspapers and
periodicals and in PGE's renewables newsletter. PGE provides a range of
marketing tools including window decals and Web graphics to help
businesses demonstrate their concern for the environment to their
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in
California is a municipal utility dedicated to green power - its power
mix emphasizes hydropower and other renewables and is one of the
cleanest in the country. SMUD has a goal to meet 23 percent of its
retail electricity sales with renewable power by 2011. To help achieve
this goal, SMUD has integrated "go green" programs for both residential
and commercial customers with new wind field construction and renewable
power purchases. In addition to buying green power, SMUD has programs
to encourage businesses to generate their own solar power, offers
advice and assistance to help business evaluate new energy-saving
technologies, and provides information on rebates and tax incentives
and energy audits.
Whether it is by implementing new renewable
technologies, expanding existing facilities, offering incentives to "go
green," or bundling green power with other products and services for
residential and commercial customers, U.S. utilities have embraced
renewable resources. With their predictable costs, security of supply,
local economic benefits, and clean power, renewable energy is a good
choice to meet future electricity needs.