“They Can’t Stop It:” Expanding Solar Energy in AZ

Photo via Unsplash

Arizona State University has been selected as the county’s most innovative school for the third straight year, according to the U.S. News and World Report. Solar energy is one innovative category the school has been greatly expanding upon.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the university six awards, totaling over four million dollars, for the Fulton School’s innovative and affordable new solar technologies, according to biz journals.com. You can read more about their projects here.

Dr. Mike Pasqualetti, a Professor at Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, says that “right now has been the right time for solar.”

The abundance of sunlight in the state of Arizona has made it easy for ASU to be at the forefront of these new technologies and developments. However, Pasqualetti says that even with the new developments, solar power will not expand in Arizona until there are government policies that support it.

But that doesn’t stop the university from using their own technology. In the video below, Dr. Pasqualetti discusses the importance of solar energy and how they are purposing it at ASU today.

ASU’s Director of Energy Innovations, Gerry DeRosa, is dedicated to renewable practices. As the head of the Facilities Development and Management Department, DeRosa takes charge on the sustainable options and projects for the university.


Photo: PowerParasol.com

One such project, the “Power Parasol,” resides at ASU Tempe campus, near the centralized area of the Memorial Union. According to Pasqualetti, the space is more than just rows of panels, because it’s utilized for concerts, events, and for bringing the ASU community together in a new (and most importantly, shaded) spot on campus.

“We were looking for something more than just energy… we wanted to transform the space,” DeRosa said.

“So that’s what we did.”




biz journals.com

Solar Power: the [Renewable] Facts

Infographic made with Piktochart
(Sidebar Piece)

The average sunny, suburban neighborhood in the metro Phoenix area will likely not produce any reflective glare from rooftop solar panels. Even in Arizona, where cloudy days are scarce, solar is not commonly utilized throughout the state.

Countries around the world are looking for viable energy options to support the sustainability of the planet. A 2017 report from the International Energy Agency shows that solar energy is on the rise as the world’s fastest growing renewable energy source. Arizona, however, is lagging behind in its solar development.

Understanding exactly what solar energy is and how it works are the first steps to incorporating this renewable energy option into every day life. There is a strong need for education on the topic, so as to continue bringing forward new technologies for solar and other sustainable options.

So how does solar work exactly? The first step is installing the solar panels which convert the sun’s rays into electricity. More specifically, the energy from the sun is converted by the panels into an electricity called DC (direct current). It means the charge is flowing in one direction.

The DC electricity is then processed by an inverter. “This device converts the DC electricity generated by the solar panels into the alternating current (AC) electricity,” according to SolarCity.com.

The inverter acts as the “brain” of the system, according to SunPower.com. Along with converting the specific type of power, it also monitors voltage and the amount of energy produced.

The AC energy is the type of electricity which then powers the air conditioning, lights, appliances, and more within one’s home.

If the solar panels have converted more energy than the home needs, it goes back into the power grid. The grid is what connects your home to others, as well as to the utility companies.

Since the home still needs to be powered at night, that’s where the utility companies come in. The home will access the power grid at night, for which the power is supplied by the utility companies.

If your home has provided excess power to the grid, it will “offset the [costs incurred by] energy used at night,” according to SolarCity.com.

There are important questions to ask when considering installing solar panels. For example, solar panels require installation on a sturdy, reliable roof. Any falling shingles or wood rot would cause immediate concern for safety.

Another common question is does installing solar really offset the costs? The amount that you save is determined by several factors. According to Energy.gov, it will depend on “how much energy you consume, the size of the system, and how much power it is able to generate.”

A successful solar energy system is one where there is not only a strong understanding and reliable technology base, but one where policy incentives and government measures are taken in order to support the community as well.








Solar on the Street

Photo: Keith Arkins

By: Drake Dunaway, Lindsey Clinkingbeard, Conrad Romero

Reporting for #Cronkite502

Our group spoke to community members in Downtown Phoenix today regarding their overall opinion of solar energy, and if they had any personal experiences with solar to share.

Our group found that most people were supportive of renewable energy. But when it came to solar, there were not many people who had experience with it. Many cited reasons such as “too expensive” or “too complicated” for why they are not currently using solar energy. Should prices drop in the future, or if the process became more simple, most people agreed they’d be open to implementing this type of renewable energy in their everyday lives.

Photo: Drake Dunaway

ASU student Micah says that “I think solar energy is a really good idea because it will help save our planet. We are at that point where we need to conserve as much energy as we can…. I think it’s really important that we do research on these types of opportunities.”

We put together a short multimedia clip of our experience today:

Thank you for following along! We will continue to share more about our investigative journey.

Solar Energy at Kayenta

Kayenta Solar Facility
Photo: Drake Dunaway

Having worked in the electric and natural gas utility business for over 45 years, Glenn Steiger is currently focused on expanding renewable energy throughout Arizona.

Steiger is the executive consultant for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. He immerses himself in the renewable energy business, and has a goal to usher the sustainability movement towards the future. His work with the Kayenta Solar Facility does just that.

Reporter Lindsey Clinkingbeard and Glenn Steiger interview together at the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, Arizona
Photo: Conrad Romero

The Kayenta Solar Facility is the newest solar addition located in northern Arizona. According to Steiger, the power plant provides additional power to those who live in the Navajo Nation. Yes, that power is renewable.

Utility companies such as Salt River Project are working with the Kayenta Facility in order to abide with the corporate commission compliance requirement to get 15% of their power from renewable sources. In other states, such as California, the requirements are closer to double of that.

The renewable power source is a first for the Navajo Nation community.

Kayenta Solar Facility – Location via Google Maps

“Solar energy is one of the most cutting-edge technologies today… it will only get better and more efficient,” Steiger says.

Reporter Drake Dunaway traveled to northern Arizona to visit Steiger at the Kayenta Solar Facility, where he was shown exactly where “Kayenta 2” will be built.

Dunaway describes the eye-opening experience of seeing both the solar field and the vast Navajo Nation in person.

“It was a combination of the land’s beauty but also like wow… there is just so much space here,” Dunaway said.

Steiger explains more about Kayenta’s new solar facility in the video below.



Where Are All the Solar Panels, Arizona?

Photo: Julian Wildner
According to Pew Research Center,  9 out of 10 adults in the U.S. are in favor of expanding solar power.
So have you ever wondered why solar panels aren’t on every building in Arizona?

Where Arizona could see a more developed renewable system, road blocks hinder growth throughout the state. Policy issues, big energy companies, and individual consumer costs affect just how much solar power can be utilized.

solar renewable energy do not always favor all parties involved.

Large energy corporations like Arizona Public Service have concerns over billing and purchasing excess solar power from individual solar panel owners. This sparks debate over governmental incentives and net metering.

APS favors buying renewable energy from bigger solar projects, creating a rift between the utility companies and personal solar users.

Photo via Unsplash