APS, First Solar 17 MW Paloma Solar Plant project to come online this year

For the first time, Arizona’s largest electric utility — Arizona Public Service Company — and Arizona’s largest solar manufacturer — First Solar — are working together to harness the power of the sun. APS has contracted with First Solar to design and build the Paloma Solar Plant, a 17-megawatt photovoltaic facility in Gila Bend, Ariz. APS will own the plant, which is expected to come online in September 2011.

Paloma is one of five solar plants currently under development in APS’s AZ Sun program. Through the program, APS will finance and own 100 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power plants in Arizona. Upon completion, the program is expected to have at least six plants, which will be designed and constructed by third-party solar developers, contractors and equipment providers. With Paloma, the AZ Sun Program now has commitments for 83 megawatts of solar capacity. The entire program is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

“Through the AZ Sun program, we have been able to move quickly to begin building new solar power plants to complement our other generating resources. We expect these plants to provide clean, reliable energy to our customers for at least the next 30 years,” said Don Robinson, APS president and chief operating officer.

With Paloma, APS’s total renewable energy portfolio is 875 megawatts, counting projects online and in development. Of that total, 288 megawatts are in service today, providing enough electricity to meet the needs of 72,000 Arizona homes.

The Paloma plant will be built on the site of a former alfalfa farm. The facility will use 300,000 thin-film photovoltaic panels mounted on fixed-tilt steel frames. It is the first time thin-film panels will be used for an APS solar plant.

“First Solar is pleased to be working with APS, a leader in green energy,” said Jim Lamon, First Solar senior vice president of engineering, procurement and construction. “Our advanced thin-film technology and our systems engineering and construction expertise will help APS turn Arizona’s vast solar resource into clean, renewable energy.”

Paloma and Cotton Center, APS’s other AZ Sun photovoltaic project in Gila Bend, will be located less than a mile apart.

“In collaboration with APS, the Town of Gila Bend is continuing to demonstrate its national leadership in promoting, locating and fast-tracking utility scale solar,” said Ron Henry, mayor of Gila Bend. “The Paloma plant represents another major solar energy investment APS has made in our community. We appreciate this continuing partnership, and we are proud to foster the development of solar energy.”

Gila Bend is also home to Solana, a concentrating solar power plant being built by Abengoa Solar. APS has a contract to purchase all of Solana’s generation beginning in 2013.