Originally Published: November 15, 2011 10 p.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - More than 13,000 solar panels, or modules, will dot the landscape near the Tank Farm and sewer plant in Prescott Valley.
Earthwork for the panels will begin as soon as next week, said Mark Holohan, solar division manager of Tempe-based Wilson Electric, which has an office in Prescott Valley.
The installation of the panels will be complete by March and they will produce 2.7 million kilowatt-hours of solar power within the first year, according to Smart Energy Capital, Wilson's financial arm.
Smart Energy and Town of Prescott Valley officials estimate the panels will cut the town's energy bill by $1.5 million over a 25-year period.
Smart Energy and Wilson Electric officials kicked off the project during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the Tank Farm, which consists of three water storage tanks past the northern dead end of Prescott East Highway.
However, the project is a year in the making, Kim Moon, the town's capital projects coordinator, said during the ceremony.
In fact, the project will undergo minor changes Thursday when the Town Council considers four revised solar renewable energy credit purchase agreements with Arizona Public Service under the consent agenda.
The council will consider the item because the project will use another solar panel manufacturer that will in turn be 25 percent higher in efficiency, Moon explained.
Town officials approved the master solar power agreement in June with Smart Energy, which has been working with Wilson to coordinate, design, seek APS approval, finance and order equipment for the panels. The panels are being shipped from Japan and are due to arrive in Prescott Valley in December, according to the staff report for the consent item.
Under the terms of the pact, Smart Energy Capital will finance all the development costs and sell all the electricity to the town at a fixed rate per kwh for 25 years. Smart Energy and its partners, Duke Energy and Integrys, are investing about $9.5 million in Prescott Valley, according to the staff report.
The town government currently spends about $1.5 million a year for electricity to serve the entire water and sewer systems, Utilities Director Neil Wadsworth said. He said the water system uses about 10 million kwh per year while the sewer system uses about half that amount.
He said the three storage tanks at the Tank Farm hold a maximum of 5 million gallons, and the sewer plant handles a maximum of 3.75 million gallons of sewage a day. The sewer plant is located off Lakeshore Drive just west of Fain Road.
"It is really APS incentives that make it viable," Smart Energy Managing Partner Brian Weisman said. He added the federal government will reimburse Smart Energy for 30 percent of the costs.
"We believe this is a real efficient way to deliver solar power," he said.
The contractors will place 8,244 solar panels near the tank farm and 5,280 panels near the sewer plant, Holohan said. He quipped that town planner Ruth Mayday would count all the panels.
Responding to a question about glare from Councilwoman Lora Lee Nye, he said the panels will be dark.
"It is a fantastic program," he said. "We do have a vibrant solar market in Arizona."
He said fencing will surround both sites to prevent theft and vandalism and to ensure electrical safety.