The town of Marana has long considered the economic benefits of adding solar panel arrays to its parks, and is nearing completion on two separate projects in the coming weeks.
Shade-providing solar setups are under construction at Ora Mae Harn District Park and Crossroads at Silverbell District Park, in partnership with Solon Energy.
According to Marana Facilities Superintendent Brendan O’Connor, the town has entered into a “power-purchase agreement,” in which Solon pays for the installation costs of the arrays, while the town pays a discounted rate for the energy it uses.
In terms of finances, O’Conner believes the installations at Ora Mae and Crossroads park will save Marana taxpayers roughly $3 million over a 30-year period on generated power.
“Long-term for taxpayers, our energy costs are only going to go up, so this will save them money in the long-run,” O’Connor said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s just a little here, a little there. And overall, it’s a huge savings for the town.”
Park-goers at Crossroads will also benefit from shade provided by the new installations, as they will cover Crossroads’ two, full-sized basketball courts, while the Ora Mae project will be located next to the facility’s pool complex.
For O’Connor, the two park projects, which will be completed and operational by early November, in combination with the town’s solar development at the Marana Municipal Complex (11555 W. Civic Center Dr.) speak to the town’s commitment to providing more environmentally-sustainable energy to town residents.
“I think it’s really good for the community to see this stuff, it shows that the town is doing something,” he said. “We’ve always been asked why we weren’t doing solar in the past, but the time wasn’t right financially. It was too expensive for us to do it in the past, but the costs came down about a year ago, which gave us enough savings to make it economically feasible.”
Marana Parks and Recreation Director Jim Conroy believes the two developments, at Crossroads and Ora Mae, will provide a tangible benefit for all that visit the parks.
“I think from a parks and recreation perspective, it’s fantastic,” he said. “Because in addition of getting the benefit of solar power, we also get the benefit of creating more recreation spaces for people to enjoy.”
Conroy expressed excitement over the 9,600 square foot shaded structure underway at Crossroads Park, which he believes could be a game-changer for residents.
“That district park is getting their 9,600 square feet of solar cover over the basketball court, which means now people will be able to do activities,” he said. “Obviously, kids will be able to do basketball in the heat of the day when the sun’s out, they’re going to be in a shaded area. And 9,600 square feet, that’s comparable to a high school gymnasium, without the bleachers, so we have two full courts there that are going to be covered.”
Conroy envisions farmers markets and festivals being held at the Crossroads shaded complex, with Ora Mae providing desperately-needed reprieve for pool-going residents during the harsh summer months.
He’s also thrilled that the Ora Mae array will provide enough energy to power the facility’s community center, as well as juicing up most of what the park’s pool requires.
“It’s going to lend itself to all types of other recreation opportunities that we’re going to be able to offer our citizens,” Conroy said. “So, I just think from a perspective of services, our ability to provide more services and opportunities for constituents and residents of Marana to enjoy the parks, it just gives people that opportunity.”