Originally Published: December 19, 2010 10 p.m.
Prescott and Chino Valley got some news this past week that forecasts another viable economic base for the future. The state's largest utility, Arizona Public Service, and SunEdison, a leader in solar power delivery, announced plans to build two solar farms with thousands of photovoltaic panels in this area next year.
SunEdison has already begun a 43,000 solar panel farm that will sit on 120 acres a short distance from Prescott Airport. This project is expected to be up and running in 2011.
In early 2012, APS and SunEdison will partner in a solar farm in Chino Valley that they hope to complete later that year.
These projects will combine with those operating now - APS farms at Prescott College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the airport.
The Prescott area stands among the first commercial solar power plant operations. The first was APS's photovoltaic plant in Flagstaff in 1997. Scottsdale was next in 1999 when it covered an 8,500-square-foot parking lot with photovoltaic panels that not only provide shade but also generate solar power. The next were APS plants at ERAU and the Prescott Airport in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
Yuma County's looking up at the sun for power, too. The Agua Caliente solar plant is under construction on private land near Dateland, and APS plans to build a solar plant near Hyder. Three more proposals for solar projects on federal land in Yuma County are on the drawing board.
Undoubtedly, the solar power concept is catching on across the state, but it's gratifying to see that Yavapai County is in the forefront.
Arizona Corporation Commission Chairman Kris Mayes said the new plans that were unveiled Friday definitely "move the ball forward in Arizona" and that these renewable energy projects send "a very strong signal to the rest of the world that Arizona is serious about solar energy."
More than that, Mayes said, "It seems like Yavapai County is becoming a mecca for solar energy."
The sun shines on Arizona nearly three-quarters of the year, and our state's sunny weather has attracted new residents and tourists for generations.
Now that momentum builds even more toward harnessing the sun for its energy, let's bask in it.
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