The Tucson Electric Power solar panels recently installed at Naranja Park will not only provide shade from the hot desert sun to parked vehicles, but also harness those rays to generate power to support about 50 homes in Oro Valley.
Announced in July and completed in early August, the project will cover approximately 100 of the park’s 180 parking spots, according to Joseph Barrios, supervisor of media relations for TEP. LED lighting is included underneath the panel structure as well, according to TEP’s website.
The solar panels’ completion was celebrated with a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 3 featuring TEP president and COO Susan Gray, Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield and members of the Oro Valley City Council.
In the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gray explained the significance of the project, saying the power generated by the panels could support 50 Oro Valley homes over the course of one year.
“We’re proud to partner with the town of Oro Valley on this project,” Gray said in the ceremony.
TEP designed and built the solar panel project free of charge for Oro Valley, as the panels were left over from a previous project.
“While our focus has been on developing large, community-scale projects on the outskirts of town, we’ve also invested in smaller, local systems throughout our community as a way to help our partners advance their own clean energy goals,” Gray said in the ribbon-cutting video.
During the ceremony, Winfield thanked TEP for installing the solar panels and expressed the importance of renewable energy.
“Renewable energy is an important component to Arizona’s future,” Winfield said. “It will help reduce carbon emissions, but just as importantly for Arizonans, it can help substantially reduce the amount of surface water used for power generation, as well as reduced groundwater use.”
Barrios said the Naranja Park solar panel project was one of three or four planned solar panel installations at local parks.
“We’ve approached both county and municipal park departments throughout the area,” Barrios said. “Oro Valley was the first in which we were able to work out all the details.”
This project helps advance TEP’s goal to have more than 70 percent of its power generated from solar and wind technology by the year 2035. Their plan also involves completely retiring coal-fired plants. According to TEP’s website, the plan is “equivalent to removing three-quarters of a million cars off the road.”
As for the overall sustainability of renewable energy in Tucson and its surrounding areas, Barrios said “over the last several years, the costs of investment in wind and solar resources have come down as technology has improved. Our customers count on us to make smart energy choices and this project supports our expansion of renewable resources.”
Sam Burdette is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media summer intern.