Today Duke Energy announced the purchase of two Arizona solar projects from Recurrent Energy totaling 20MW. The projects provide solar electricity to Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) under the terms of two 25-year power purchase agreements.
We reached an agreement with Duke back in August to sell the projects. However, we decided to wait until after the projects were completed and operating to make the announcement. I think one of the most exciting things about it is that Duke Energy's involvement is yet more evidence of solar's growing role in the mainstream energy industry.
The projects themselves are pretty interesting. The Ajo Solar Project in Pima County (5MW) and the Bagdad solar project in Yavapai County (15MW) are both great examples of what we call 'distributed wholesale' power plants. They're less than 20MW each and located near load centers, but the power they generate is delivered to the utility under a wholesale contract, which allows them to be financed more like a conventional power plant.
The projects are also great examples of how solar can be sited in a way that makes use of lands with low environmental value. Both projects are located adjacent to large mine tailings. That means that this is a story about using solar to transform an otherwise useless location rather than using pristine wilderness.
In a very real sense, these projects represent the best of what 'good solar' can be: adaptive to local environments, delivering clean power where it's needed most, reliable enough to work with utilities like APS, and bankable enough to attract the investment of mainstream energy companies like Duke. We've come a long way, baby!