The Solar Electric Power Association has honored Tucson Electric Power with a Solar Business Achievement Award for its innovative Bright Tucson Community Solar Program, which allows customers to purchase solar energy directly from their utility.

TEP’s Bright Tucson Community Solar Program allows customers to purchase energy from local solar arrays in 150 kWh “blocks” that add $3 each to their monthly bills. Customers can purchase some or all of their energy through the program, reducing or eliminating their use of conventional power while locking in an affordable solar energy rate for up to 20 years.

“The program breaks through barriers that prevented renters, property owners with limited rooftop space and others from investing in solar energy,” said David Hutchens, Executive Vice President of TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corp. “The Bright Tucson Community Solar program offers a flexible, affordable way to go green without any up-front cost or complications.”

Hutchens accepted the award in Dallas during Solar Power International 2011, a conference presented by SEPA and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Phoenix-based Salt River Project also was honored for Utility Innovation in Solar Program Design for its SRP EarthWise program, which allows schools and residential customers to buy energy from a 20-MW solar array in Florence, Arizona.

The Bright Tucson Community Solar Program is part of TEP’s ongoing plan to dramatically expand its solar generating resources. With more than 25 MW of solar generation online already, the company expects to expand that capacity to more than 200 MW by the end of 2014 through a combination of company owned resources, privately developed projects and distributed generating systems.