New project in Arizona takes giant solar energy step for the world

YUMA, AZ - The sunniest place on Earth is finally living up to its potential!

Arizona Western College in Yuma recently broke ground on a one-of-a-kind solar project.  The community along with APS , PPA Partners , and Rosendin Electric are celebrating after years of preparation and development. 

Jonathan Postal, Senior Vice President of Main Street Power tells us, "in essance, every light bulb, every air conditioning during the day will be powered by solar power."  That is enough energy to power over 600 homes every year! 

Main Street Power owns and will be operating the solar energy system in partnership with their financial partner, MS Solar Solutions and Morgan Stanley .

Bill Smith, Director of Management at AWC tells us that the campus of AWC has about 35 acres of land that, for one reason or another, cannot be built on.  That area is going to be used to install five megawatts of solar power over the next four months that will power the entire daytime energy use on the campus.

This new project will add 4.995 megawatts of solar power to the 105.6 kilowatts already sitting on a rooftop at AWC. This will save AWC a total of approximately $3.5 million in 10 years and about $40 to $60 million over the 30-year contract.

It's not just about using alternative energy and saving millions of dollars.  It's mainly about the research and education, hence the slogan, "Solar with a Purpose: Innovation, Education, Generation."  The project will utilize five different types of solar technologies to allow the college and the industry to test different systems. 

The technologies include CPV, Thin Film Panels, Monocrystalline panels, and single-axis tracher.

Bill Smith, Director of Facilities Management at AWC says that the students are very excited to get hands on experience. 

"To be able to have baccalaureate and master degree programs in engineering in alternative energy is just fabulous and we're literally getting calls every day, 50 to 100 a week from countries all over the world that want to put their technology on our campus and come see what we're doing here," Smith said. 

He tells us even  the White House calls to get updates for President Barack Obama.

Smith says the eyes of the world are literally on Yuma right now.  That is because there is a a camera set up that sends a continual live feed of the solar panels to the Internet where anyone can see it. 

President of AWC, Glenn Mayle says it will be an educational opportunity for schools and universities across the globe.  He tells us, "people online, all over the world can watch this construction and they'll be able to tune and see what it's producing, so we're doing something unique there as well."

Julie Engel, President and CEO of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corporation , believes the project makes sense for Yuma.  She says that Yuma County has the capacity to supply all of the United States with solar energy.

Mayle says after the installation over the summer, you won't recognize the campus. AWC is set to "flip the switch" to solar this October.

Click here to watch the continual construction of the solar panels at AWC.

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