Arizona Public Service Co. will own and operate a new 15-megawatt photovoltaic power plant to be built at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz. APS has hired SunPower Corp. to design and construct the solar plant, which is expected to come online in summer 2011. It will be the largest solar installation on U.S. government property.

Several critical steps remain before construction can begin in January 2011. These steps include environmental assessments, permitting and site preparation work.

“We continue to blend renewable energy into our current generation portfolio in a manner that enables our customers to receive reliable and affordable electricity,” said APS President and Chief Operating Officer Don Robinson. “This solar project is another example of the strong relationship between Luke Air Force Base and APS, and helps both organizations meet their renewable energy needs.”

The plant, which will be located on a little more than 100 acres of underutilized land on the base, will use 52,000 high-efficiency SunPower solar panels. A single-axis tracking system will allow the panels to follow the sun across the sky, capturing 25 percent more energy than if the panels were stationary. The plant’s 15-megawatt capacity is equivalent to the energy needs of 3,750 Arizona homes or 50 percent of the Base’s energy needs.

“The project and our long-term agreement with APS will benefit the American tax-payer,” said Air Force Lt. Col. John Thomas, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron commander at Luke. “The Base will receive stable energy costs and increased energy independence associated with using reliable, emission-free solar power.”

This is the second solar project collaboration for APS and Luke Air Force Base. In 2006, APS provided $1.5 million in incentives to reduce the cost of integrating a 375-kilowatt solar system into the Base Exchange’s new roof. As with that project, the new solar facility will be paid for by customers and approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission.