Smart Grid

December 17, 2012

Duke Energy Acquires Commercial Solar Project at UA's Tech Park in Tucson

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy (News - Alert), the largest electric power holding company in the United States, has acquired a commercial solar power project located within the University of Arizona's (UA) Science and Technology Park (UA Tech Park) in Tucson in an area known as the Solar Zone.

Duke Energy Renewables, a commercial business unit of Duke Energy, purchased the 6-megawatt (MW) Gato Montes Solar Power Project from AstroSol Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Solmotion GmbH, a German solar developer. The project is expected to achieve commercial operation within the next week. Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) will buy all of the electricity from the project under a 20-year agreement.

"Gato Montes is our fifth solar power project in Arizona in the past two years," said Duke Energy Renewables President Greg Wolf. "In fact, we'll have 37 MW of solar energy in production in Arizona by the end of the year, representing more than half of the 67 MW in our growing portfolio of solar projects nationwide."

Since 2007, Duke Energy has invested more than $2.5 billion to grow its commercial wind and solar business.

The Gato Montes Solar Power Project comprises 48,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels and is Duke Energy Renewables' 12th wholly owned commercial solar project in the United States. In addition to Gato Montes, the company’s solar projects in the state include: 

The solar photovoltaic (PV) thin-film, amorphous silicon technology used in the Gato Montes project is a first in the Duke Energy Renewables fleet. It is also unique at the UA Tech Park, where various solar projects are being tested under identical operating conditions to evaluate the most beneficial technology for solar energy production in the Southwest.

The Solar Zone is a global hot spot for the next generation of energy production, product development, testing and commercialization. The first-of-its-kind, solar-centric research park offers a supportive, integrated and competitive environment that features:

  • 18.5 MW of solar power generation using multiple technologies
  • Research and development of energy storage and other new solar technologies
  • Manufacturing and supply chain capacity
  • Testing and demonstration of eight solar energy systems
  • Research, technology, talent and collaboration with the University of Arizona, a top 15 U.S. research university

The UA Tech Park is working in collaboration with Tucson Electric Power to advance the Solar Zone that support the development of the solar industry in the region.

"The Gato Montes installation is an excellent example of cutting-edge technology," said Bruce A. Wright, UA associate vice president for university research parks. "We are proud of our partnership with this project, as it complements the mix of solar technology showcased at the UA Tech Park's Solar Zone."

Construction on the 38.5-acre parcel of land in the UA Tech Park began in December 2011. AstroSol Inc. received certification from the Border Environment Cooperation Commission and received financial approval for a $12.3 million loan from the North American Development Bank to construct the project. 

The UA Tech Park advances the University of Arizona’s research mission and its efforts at technology development and technology commercialization (see video). The UA Tech Park contributes $2.7 billion annually to Pima County’s economy. It is one of the region’s largest employment centers, hosting 50 businesses and organizations that employ nearly 6,500 people. The UA Tech Park is also home to the Arizona Center for Innovation, a technology business incubator, and two educational institutions – UA South and Vail Academy and High School. 

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Above, the Solar Zone at University of Arizona’s Science and Technology Park