Mesa seeks solar panels for water plant

MESA, ARIZONA - A park in Mesa is on the drawing board to turn a lot greener through a city initiative to install solar panel arrays nearby in an effort to save energy.

The deadline for the $558,180 project is 2010.

In all, Mesa plans to install 11 photovoltaic arrays at the city's Central Arizona Project Water Treatment Plant.

The money would come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for alternative energy proposals submitted to the Department of Energy.

"We are definitely looking for ways that we can integrate solar power energy into the city," Mesa's Development and Sustainability Deputy Director Scott Bouchie said. "This project is the perfect example of the city developing a sustainable energy source."

Bouchie said the company, SolFocus, won the bid to supply the concentrated photovoltaic arrays, which will interconnect with the Salt River Project's electric distribution system that serves the park. The project could reportedly provide enough electricity for about 12 average Mesa electric residential customers, according to city estimates.

Olga Echitel, spokeswoman for SolFocus, said her company specializes in building only one type of cell — called concentrated because of the highly focused process of extracting electric energy from the sun.

"The sun is reflected off of a mirror onto another mirror, which concentrates all of the sun's energy onto a another smaller mirror and into the solar arrays cell," she said. "The array is on a tracking system, which moves with the movement of the sun throughout the day, side to side, where ever it needs to be."

Bouchie said while the construction schedule touted possible completion by 2010, the project was only a proposal that would require further approval by the Department of Energy.

"The money is coming from the stimulus, but it's still dependent upon approval from the DOE to spend the stimulus dollars," Bouchie said.

According to city documents, Mesa has $4.2 million allocated from the energy department as part of the stimulus package. Bouchie said overall approval rested with the energy department. He said the approval process could take as long as late October.

The city estimated the project — if completed — could save $16,000 to $20,000 per year in electrical costs.



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