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Pima County May OK $22M Solar Deal

The newly built Valencia Solar project spreads across the desert near East Valencia and South Craycroft roads, with the Tucson Electric Power Co. gas- and coal-fired H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station in the background. Photo credit: David Wichner/Arizona Daily Star

By Patrick McNamara for Arizona Daily Star

The Pima County Board of Supervisors could approve a deal to buy $22M worth of electricity from solar-energy provider Solon Development over the next 20 years on Tuesday.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the agreement is good for taxpayers because it will save $4.5M over the 20 years on electricity the county would have bought anyway, albeit at a higher price.

Dan Millis, with the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, said it is good for everyone because it reduces the need to burn fossil fuels, which means cleaner air.

The plan would permit Tucson-based Solon to build solar-power-generating facilities, which would double as covered parking, at 11 existing county parking lots.

The agreement allows Solon to build and own the covered parking structures and power-generating facilities on county property, and sell the generated electric power to the county over the 20-year term of the contracts.

The company would be responsible for maintenance of the facilities.

The county would agree to buy more than $22M of electric power from Solon — as opposed to Tucson Electric Power — at a price that would be frozen for the full 20 years, regardless of inflation or fluctuation in the cost of electricity from other sources.

The county would buy the power for 12.8 cents per kilowatt.

A side benefit for taxpayers, Huckelberry said, would happen at times when the facilities generated more power than the county used. TEP would then buy back the excess at the same 12.8-cent rate.

The contract was awarded to Solon through a selection process that did not include competitive bids normally required for projects of such magnitude.

Rather than soliciting bids, Huckelberry said the county solicited proposals from two companies, which it felt were the only ones to meet the criteria for the industrial scale of the projects.

Read more at Arizona Daily Star

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