The Solar Electric Power Association has recognized Tucson Electric Power in Arizona as the 2012 Investor Owned Utility of the Year for the company’s leadership and continued investment in solar energy.

“We’ve worked very hard to embrace solar energy as a clean, renewable resource for our customers and an opportunity for economic development in our community. We couldn’t be more pleased to receive this honor,” said Paul Bonavia, chairman and CEO of TEP and its parent company, UNS Energy Corp. “TEP has studied and maintained solar energy systems for more than a decade. In recent years, we’ve dramatically expanded our solar resources in Southern Arizona, and we are committed to adding solar resources in the future.” .

TEP currently has more than 45 MW of solar generating capacity, enough to meet the annual electric needs of more than 8,000 Tucson homes. By the end of 2014, TEP expects to have more than 240 MW of solar generating capacity, enough to meet the annual electric needs of more than 46,000 homes.

To select the recipient of the Investor Owned Utility of the Year award, SEPA evaluated the 2011 solar energy initiatives of more than 50 utility companies. Criteria included completion of solar projects, program diversity, program partnerships, innovation, net-metering and interconnection policy, leadership and support from management, community awareness and marketing efforts, and customer service and accessibility. .

During SEPA’s evaluations, TEP’s solar initiatives shined for several reasons:

  • With the launch of the Bright Tucson Community Solar program, TEP was the country’s first IOU to offer a program that allows customers to purchase energy from local solar arrays in 150 kilowatt-hour (kWh) “blocks,” thus reducing or eliminating their use of conventional power while locking in an affordable solar energy rate for up to 20 years. Last year, SEPA recognized TEP with an award for Utility Innovation in Solar Program Design for the program. .
  • Continued partnership with the University of Arizona (UA) Science and Technology Park’s Solar Zone, where TEP both owns and purchases power from large, utility-scale solar farms built by several solar developers using different solar technologies.
  • TEP’s 5 MW Sundt Solar Boost Project, which will produce up to 5 MW of electricity using a concentrating solar power system without added emissions at the company’s H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station in Tucson. .
  • TEP is currently studying various forms of electric energy storage (EES) technologies, which will play a critical role in renewable integration. TEP is working with the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy (AzRISE), the UA and other project partners to develop a combined compressed air and battery storage system at the UA’s Science and Technology Park southeast of Tucson. .

“It’s important for us to develop solar energy programs and strategies that are achievable and cost-effective for our customers,” Hutchens said. “Our partnerships are an important part of our long-term solar strategy. We share this award with our customers and the community.”

“Last year, solar energy was the nation’s fastest growing generation source thanks in large part to utilities like Tucson Electric Power,” said Julia Hamm, SEPA president and CEO. “Through their first-of-a-kind community solar program to their storage and CSP initiatives, TEP has proven why it is deserving of the Investor Owned Utility of the Year title. Their innovation and strong portfolio should serve as a model for other IOUs on how to successfully embrace clean solar energy.”