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AZ Tech Beat | July 19, 2019

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Solar Zone brightens Ariz. energy industry with completion of 165-acres of solar panels

Solar Zone brightens Ariz. energy industry with completion of 165-acres of solar panels
Alyssa Lee

While the weather may be cooling down, Arizona’s solar industry is warming up as businesses and the University of Arizona completed the first phase of the Solar Zone, a renewable energy research initiative now complete with 165 acres of photovoltaic solar panels.

Situated in Tucson, Arizona, the Solar Zone at the University of Arizona Tech Park is expected to be one of the largest solar testing and demonstration sites in the world. Which makes sense, considering Tucson gets about 85 percent of sunshine throughout the year, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Three years after its inception, the park marked the completion of the Solar Zone’s first phase with installation of a one-megawatt solar array, which is owned by Washington Gas Energy Systems.

Tech Parks AZ2The zone is currently generating 23 megawatts of power, which is nearly double the amount of energy consumed at the Tech Park and is enough to power the homes of about 4,600 Tucson residents.

Related: What you need to know about the Tucson tech community

Bruce Wright, the associate vice president of Tech Parks Arizona, said the Solar Zone was developed to improve solar energy by creating an environment where companies can test and develop renewable energy products and technology.

“We’re looking at the issues like how do you store the energy that’s generated by solar systems and how do you embed renewable technology into all aspects of life,” Wright said, adding that the Solar Zone is a partnership between the UA and Tucson Electric Power.

Ultimately, TEP will use the power generated in the Solar Zone to expand its renewable energy efforts across southern Arizona.

As of now, 10 companies and organizations participated in the first phase of the Solar Zone by testing and demonstrating their own solar technologies and systems. The companies were comprised of industry heavyweights like IBM and Duke Energy and local firms such as TEP and Vail Academy and High School.

With the first phase completed, Tech Park officials have begun to devise the second phase of the sprawling park. The second phase includes research and development of energy storage, micro grids and solar applications and deployment in areas such as mining, agriculture and defense and security systems.

As Tech Parks Arizona steps into the second phase of construction for the Solar Zone, we’ll have to wait and see what renewable technologies are heating up under the sun.

Read: Tech Parks Arizona celebrates 20 years and plans for 20 more