Arizona Public Service received approval Thursday from the Arizona Corporation Commission for the Community Power Project in Flagstaff, a pilot program that will bring solar panels to the rooftops of homes and businesses.

APS will own, operate and receive energy from solar panels on customer rooftops that are suitable for the project. The company will hire solar contractors to install and maintain the systems in a limited area of northeast Flagstaff. Customers will receive a long-term Community Power Rate for the solar portion of their bill. This rate will remain fixed at a guaranteed level – approximately equivalent to what they pay today – for 20 years. The company anticipates rollout of the program this summer.

“Our customers want solar energy for their homes and businesses and the Community Power Project is an important option,” said APS President Don Robinson. “With the Community Power Project we will also be among the first utilities in the country to study different solar power scenarios as they happen in real time and test different ways to manage these challenges on the grid. What we learn could very well become a lynchpin for making rooftop solar generation a widespread phenomenon in the future.”

The Community Power Project will enable APS to measure system impacts and to better understand the total customer experience with technology. Last fall, APS along with its four grant partners received notification from the U.S. Department of Energy that it would receive a $3.3 million federal grant to study the effects of high concentrations of solar energy on the grid over a 45-month period. Finalization of the award is expected this month. The Flagstaff program will serve as the host of the study.

APS intends to generate 1.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the Community Power Project in Flagstaff. Under the current plan, 200 qualified participants will be interconnected with the electrical grid along a single electric distribution area, or “feeder,” called Sandvig 4 in northeast Flagstaff. This area, which serves approximately 3,000 residential and business customers, is bounded by Wupatki Trail to the north, Railhead Avenue to the south, Kochfield Road to the east and Timberline Estates to the west.

Also as part of this project, APS plans to install a utility-scale solar array and several small wind turbines in the test area. The company also plans to work with local agencies to provide 50 solar water heaters in the pilot area on homes of customers with limited incomes.