‘Solar Zone’ Becomes Reality in Less Than a Year

A partnership with Tucson Electric Power has helped the UA Tech Park become a bustling, solar-centric business zone that's advancing solar energy innovation and production.
Aug. 25, 2010
UA Tech Park
UA Tech Park
Artist rendering of the Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park
Artist rendering of the Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park
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Arizona Corporation Commission action Tuesday affirmed that in less than a year, the Solar Zone at the University of Arizona Science & Technology Park, or UA Tech Park, has moved from an on-paper concept to a bustling, solar-centric business zone that is advancing solar energy innovation and production.

The Solar Zone is the intended site of four of 10 new solar power plants developed through contracts with Tucson Electric Power, or TEP, that were endorsed Tuesday by the commission.

The new projects will combine with two previously announced systems to expand the Solar Zone's total solar generating capacity to nearly 20 megawatts, making it one of the largest contiguous solar facilities in the nation. Together, the systems will generate enough clean energy to power more than 4,600 Tucson homes annually.

The four new Solar Zone tenants join Bell IPC, announced in January 2010. Site preparation and construction, valued at about $2 million, begins in September 2010.

The new projects include:

  • Connecticut-based CTC Electric plans a 5 megawatt, fixed photovoltaic installation in the Solar Zone.
  • EMCORE Corp. of Albuquerque provides compound semiconductor-based components and subsystems for the fiber optics and solar power markets. EMCORE plans a 2 megawatt concentrated photovoltaic system in the Solar Zone.
  • Foresight – Solar Point, LLC will be developing a solar photovoltaic facility of approximately 5 megawatt capacity at the Solar Zone. Foresight-Solar Point, a joint venture of Foresight Solar LLC and Solar Point Partners, LLC, has corporate offices in San Francisco and a development office in Flagstaff, Ariz.
  • Seal Beach, Calif.-based Amonix Solar will build a 2 megawatt concentrating solar system project in the Solar Zone.

The Solar Zone will provide TEP with a unique opportunity to evaluate different types of solar power systems, including a 5 megawatt concentrating solar thermal power plant with integrated storage being built by Bell Independent Power Corporation of Rochester, N.Y., under a previously approved contract with the utility. TEP also will own and operate a 1.6 megawatt single-axis tracking PV array being developed at the Solar Zone this year by Solon, a Tucson-based solar system manufacturer and integrator.

"We'll be able to track how these technologies perform side-by-side, under identical operating conditions, to determine which systems work best for our company and our customers," said Paul Bonavia, chairman, president and CEO of TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corp. "The Solar Zone is becoming a valuable resource as we work to establish TEP as a renewable energy leader."

"The selection of the Solar Zone by these cutting-edge power-producers is significant validation of our vision to bring different aspects of the solar industry together in a supportive and competitive environment," said Robert N. Shelton, president of the UA. "The Solar Zone has created an exceptional atmosphere that dovetails with UA's core mission of access, quality and discovery."

"The Solar Zone's rapid acceptance and movement from concept to construction is impressive confirmation of the need for and viability of the Solar Zone," Shelton said.

"Tucson is home to one of the best solar-resource locations in the United States. The Tucson environment is well-suited for EMCORE's concentrating photovoltaic systems. The UA Solar Zone along with Tucson Electric Power presented a working arrangement that is supportive of rapid deployment of new solar power technologies. Tucson Electric has been very aggressive incorporating innovative technologies into their renewable energy portfolio," said Christopher Larocca, chief operating officer of EMCORE.

"We appreciate the Arizona Board of Regents' efforts to support renewable energy technologies, the UA Solar Zone demonstration and the selection of EMCORE's solar technology," Larocca said.

"Five new solar projects locating here establishes the Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park as the largest multi-tenant, multi-technology demonstration site in the nation," said Bruce Wright, the UA's associate vice president for University Research Parks. "TEP's selection of our site demonstrates that the Solar Zone is the ideal environment to create, test and deploy current and future solar technologies."

"A comprehensive, integrated solar park at this level does not exist elsewhere. We are pleased that the power producers recognize that and, through their partnerships with TEP, are seeking to be part of this innovative, exciting business park," added John D. Grabo, director of business development for the UA Tech Park.

"We are pleased that our project was selected for the Solar Zone by Tucson Electric Power," said Amy LeGere, Foresight Solar director of development. "With 350 days of Tucson sun and all the attributes of this solar-centric business zone, this is an optimal setting for solar energy generation. We commend the UA Tech Park for its vision and leadership in helping Arizona become a global leader in the renewable energy sector."

Likewise, Seal Beach, California-based Amonix, Inc., the recognized leader in designing and manufacturing utility-scale concentrating solar systems, said its proven Amonix CPV solar systems are the best choice for sunny and dry climates like Tucson. The systems use no water in power production, use land better and generate more energy per acre than any other solar technology. Amonix has been awarded a 2 megawatt project in the Solar Zone.

Of the UA Tech Park's 1,345 acres, 222 are designated as the Solar Zone. The Solar Zone has proved its ability to attract power generation, according to Grabo. He expects manufacturers, researchers, start-up companies, and educational institutions to be attracted to the Solar Zone.

The Solar Zone will feature a demonstration garden and public awareness center that will display how solar power works, how it can be used and how it helps the environment. The Solar Zone's education goal will extend to on-site classrooms where local institutions can develop workforce-training programs with industry input for solar energy-related jobs, such as technicians and installers.

"The Solar Zone is becoming an internationally recognized hot spot for solar thought leaders," said Grabo. "The Solar Zone will leverage the innovation capacity at the UA and within the region and forge Tucson's position as the international thought leader in solar technology development and deployment."

For 15 years, the UA Tech Park has contributed to regional economic development by advancing the UA's research mission and its efforts at technology development and technology commercialization. 

The UA Tech Park contributes $3 billion annually to Pima County's economy and is one of the region's largest employment centers hosting approximately 40 businesses and organizations that employee 7,000 people. The UA Tech Park is also home to the Arizona Center for Innovation, a technology business incubator, and three educational institutions – UA South, Pima Community College and Vail Academy and High School.

The UA Tech Park has been nationally recognized as one of the premier university research parks in North America.