Incentives build Arizona into solar mecca

Sept. 15, 2009
PHOENIX, AZ--These days, much more than its abundant natural sunshine is cementing Arizona’s position as the top solar mecca within the U.S. During the Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco this July (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/367264)

PHOENIX, AZ--These days, much more than its abundant natural sunshine is cementing Arizona’s position as the top solar mecca within the U.S. During the Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco this July (see www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/367264), Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the Renewable Industries program into law--legislation that will offer $350 million in refundable tax credits to stimulate new investment through renewable-energy manufacturing and headquarters operations. “Companies are seeing Arizona as a candidate for their headquarters, and also have an incentive to make an investment in large-scale solar projects within Arizona as equipment suppliers,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC; www.gpec.org)

Broome says that Arizona is projected to be #2 in concentrated solar-power installations in the U.S. and is in the top five for all-renewable infrastructure. “Arizona is not a big-government state and hasn’t had a big policy appetite at the state or national level,” says Broome, “However, the incentive program is changing that situation--Arizona, through activities like ours at the GPEC, is doing what it can to insure that we work closely with companies so they can take advantage of what Arizona has to offer.” Broome says that the application process for the Renewable Industries program begins October 1st, and the GPEC is just now beginning to formalize the application process. “So far, we have picked up 92 prospects for the incentive, which includes 26 international companies.” Broome adds, “Of those prospects, three to five are strong candidates.”

International appeal

Already, Spanish solar-energy companies Abengoa, Albiasa, and Iberdrola are planning some of the world’s largest utility-scale projects in Arizona. Kyocera Solar and Aide Solar, rooted in Japan and China respectively, have their U.S. headquarters in Greater Phoenix. And German-owned Schletter and SOLON established manufacturing operations in Tucson, with TÜV Rheinland PTL in partnership with Arizona State University with a world-renowned facility for photovoltaic (PV) technology testing.

Who will benefit

“Arizona has done a lot to create a friendly business atmosphere promoting growth in the solar energy industry,” said Drew Zogby, president and COO of PV systems manufacturer Alpha Technologies (Bellingham, WA). “Our new Alpha Energy sales office in Phoenix has helped us gain exposure to a receptive audience. Along with the current lower costs for PV panels and government incentives, Alpha Energy is focusing on working with Arizona organizations to provide turnkey solar power systems with complete engineering and implementation, including all construction, permitting and incentive applications.”

Some recent Alpha Technologies projects include finalizing details on a 191 kW grid-tied solar system that will utilize 1080 PV panels to generate more than 290,000 kW hours per year for the Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters, and a 56 kW grid-tied solar power system with 270 PV panels to generate more than 85,000 kW hours per year for the Deer Valley Airport Hangar.

In addition to interest in the incentive programs from U.S. companies, Broome is also seeing huge interest from China. However, he is careful to note that the GPEC is just beginning to define its role with China, and wants to be sure that Chinese-government subsidies don’t skew the U.S. market position by flooding it, for example, with underpriced “subsidized” PV panels.

To learn more about the program, go to www.gpec.org/Renewable_Industries_Program.aspx.

--Gail Overton

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