Originally Published: June 27, 2008 10:21 p.m.
PRESCOTT - On a recent trip to Germany, Salt River Project official Lori Singleton saw how government subsidies can affect energy sustainability - specifically on efforts toward solar power.
"You see it everywhere in Germany," Singleton said of solar devices. "You see it on homes, on businesses, even on farms."
Even though the population of the United States is nearly four times greater and its land mass is about 27 times larger than Germany's, Singleton said the European country outdistances the U.S. in solar energy.
"And they have the sunshine of Alaska," Singleton added.
The key to Germany's success, she said, was strong government support, including guaranteed energy payments to solar users.
That was just one of the points that Singleton made to a group of about 50 people who turned out at Prescott College Thursday night for the latest presentation in a series of "Looking Forward" speakers who are part of the Prescott 2050 Visioning planning effort.
William E. Arnold, chairman of the 2050 Visioning effort, said he hopes that information such as Singleton's would spur the planning group to incorporate sustainability elements into its final recommendations.
"What we're trying to do is give these committees ideas," Arnold said, referring to the 13 work groups that are focusing on topics such as climate change, development, and local ambiance.
While much of Singleton's information dealt with the Phoenix-area utility company SRP, Arnold said local planners could use the information for possible recommendations to Arizona Public Service, the electric utility serving the Prescott area.
In addition, Singleton suggested that the 2050 planners also recommend that local governments look for renewable energy sources.
As the manager of sustainability initiatives and technologies for the SRP, Singleton sees first-hand what is feasible in efforts toward sustainability.
For instance, she noted that solar energy "still remains the most expensive renewable energy source that's out there."
Her information indicated that - under current energy prices - SRP customers would need about 25 years to recoup in energy savings the money they would spend on a four-kilowatt solar electric system for their homes.
She based that on a $28,000 typical cost for the systems. After receiving a $1,000 Arizona tax credit, a $2,000 federal tax credit, and a $12,000 SRP solar incentive, users still would have a $13,000 net cost, Singleton's information noted.
Despite the high costs, she said, SRP continues efforts toward using Arizona's plentiful solar resource.
"Each time we build a new building, we are including solar as well," said Singleton, adding that the company also is looking into a massive new concentrated-solar power plant near Gila Bend.
Singleton's presentation showed that while renewable resources currently make up about 6 percent of SRP's total energy sources, solar accounts for only about .2 percent of that. The greatest percentages go to hydro power (at 72 percent of the 6 percent of renewable sources), geothermal (17 percent), and wind (9 percent).
SRP has set a target of increasing its current 6 percent of renewable energy to 15 percent by 2025, according to Singleton's information.
Thursday night's presentation generated a number of questions from the audience about SRP's use of coal and hydro-electricity, as well as the renewable-energy incentives that are available.
The Prescott 2050 Visioning planning effort kicked off in February, with the goal of having a final plan ready to go to Mayor Jack Wilson in December.
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