Tucson Electric Power’s partnerships with IES pave the way for a new era of renewable energy
Solar energy use is growing fast within Arizona and the Southwestern U.S.—Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has increased the capacity of its solar resources from 5-10 megawatts (MW) alternating current to more than 430 MW in just the past ten years. However, energy demands continue to rise and there are still more challenges with solar energy to overcome. In order to bring more renewable energy into Southern Arizona, TEP has partnered with some of the research faculty affiliated with the Institute for Energy Solutions.
While Arizona has ample sunlight, the harsh conditions can degrade solar panels quickly. TEP works with Dr. Kelley Simmons-Potter and the AZRISE/TEP Solar Test Yard to research the capacity of different solar panels in varying conditions. TEP also works with Dr. William Holmgren and his team to test solar forecasting models which will make solar energy more flexible and reliable. This research helps TEP to maximize the efficiency of their solar energy systems and supplement it with energy from other sources when production drops. The information that both research teams can provide is crucial to the success of current solar plants and the ones that have yet to be built. TEP is also interested in investing in battery degradation research—the company already has 21 MW of storage capacity and is preparing for the installation of a 30 MW storage system, and will add on as the technology continues to improve and become more cost effective.
“Having a partnership like this where we can learn from the lab about what holds up well and what doesn’t, that’s very useful for us,” said TEP spokesman Joseph Barrios.
Tucson’s collective support for sustainable practices was demonstrated in December 2018, when the University of Arizona joined the City of Tucson and Pima County in the "Tucson 2030 District", which supports significant reductions in building energy use, water consumption and climate-changing emissions from transportation by 2030.
Similarly, TEP is pursuing plans to build a smarter, greener grid with lower emissions, a smaller carbon footprint and expanded renewable resources. To fully meet the challenge of this mission, TEP is investing in not only solar energy, but wind-generated systems as well with 80.4 MW of existing turbines in Willcox, AZ and Deming, NM and plans to add nearly 350 MW of wind within the next two years. This is part of TEP’s own ‘30 by 30 Plan’ - to have 30% of their energy output come from renewable resources by 2030. Currently about 14% of TEP’s energy comes from wind and solar energy, and is set to far exceed the state mandate of 15% renewable-sourced energy by 2025. TEP has fully committed their resources to this goal as it gradually shuts down coal-burning plants and expands its renewable energy profile to accommodate the needs of their customers while building more sustainable energy resources that provide environmental benefits for the entire community.