APS solar project has research impact on NAU

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Arizona Public Service has invited Northern Arizona University to partner with the utility on research opportunities that will arise from its proposed renewable-energy project in Doney Park.

APS is proposing to outfit 200 to 300 homes and businesses in the east Flagstaff area with solar panels to create a “renewable power plant.” The solar panels will be installed at no cost to the home or business owner. The utility also will establish small-scale wind turbines.

The rates for the portion of electricity provided by the solar panels will be fixed for 20 years.

APS announced plans for the Community Power Project on Monday in the APS Atrium in NAU’s Applied Research and Development building. “What a perfect environment to announce such an innovative project,” said NAU PresidentJohn Haeger, referring to the LEED Platinum-rated building. “Northern Arizona University and APS have had a solid partnership for years, and this project can only build upon it.”

Laura Huenneke, vice president for Research, sees a big potential for research projects for all of NAU.

“We are excited to learn that APS envisions this pilot as a research project and that they are interested in partnering with NAU faculty, staff and students,” she said.  “In fact, they are creating a living laboratory here in Flagstaff for all kinds of research into both technical and human aspects of renewable energy.”

IN a gathering at NAU’s ARD building, APS chairman and CEO Don Brandt unveiled the utilities proposal for a solar project in east Flagstaff.

Possible research projects include:

  • What influence does participation in the program have on the actual energy consumption patterns in a household?
  • What analytical or information management tools might APS make use of in integrating and managing the massive flow of data from the many sensors in their “smart grid” investment?
  • What opportunities are there to improve upon the sensors (and the collection of information from them) being integrated into the grid?

“Over the years APS has been a great friend and partner to the university, and we will be very happy to lend our expertise in sustainability to this leading-edge project,” Heunekke said.

APS submitted its plans to the Arizona Corporation Commission on Monday. The commission is expected to act on the proposal in late summer or early fall.

During Monday’s announcement, Don Brandt, APS chairman and CEO, said the utility chose the Flagstaff area because “it is a progressive, forward-thinking community and because of our relationship with NAU and Dr. Haeger.”

Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler also praised the project. “We were most excited to learn we were chosen for this project,” she said. “The message we’re sending today (about renewable energy) is exactly what the country is looking for.”

She also was pleased that jobs will be created by APS’s partnerships with local businesses.