Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is lighting up southern Arizona with a brand new solar farm in the southeast corner of the state. The Wilmot Energy Center will feature 314,000 solar panels on 1,130 acres and create at least 250 new jobs. This project will benefit from the federal government’s most recent pandemic relief and stimulus package, which passed late last year. That package allocates money toward solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal research and development – and extends the federal tax credit incentivizing the construction of new solar power plants just like the Wilmot Energy Center.
The Wilmot plant, a 100-megawatt AC photovoltaic project with 30 megawatts of linked battery storage, will begin operating as early as April 2021. TEP has inked a 20-year contract to buy power from the plant, which will provide enough power to serve up to 21,000 homes annually (and, as transmission lines expand, this will include the University of Arizona campus).
Adding solar power from Wilmot is a focal point of TEP’s multi-faceted plan to reach 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2035. The company buys from numerous solar plants around the state as it continues to expand its sustainable sources. This solar power makes a big dent in consumers’ power bills, as the sun’s energy is not only cleaner, it’s significantly cheaper. In fact, TEP made industry-wide news several years ago when it announced that Wilmot power would cost less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, an industry low at the time.
“[It] represents another big step for us toward building a cleaner, greener grid,” said TEP spokesperson Joe Barrios. “Solar energy will be generated and stored during peak production hours, then used later during high usage periods to meet our customers’ energy needs.”
Federal tax credits on projects like this one in Arizona are vital in America’s move toward a cleaner, more sustainable future. These credits are a part of a $900 billion bipartisan pandemic relief and stimulus bill package passed by Congress on December 20, 2020. The package has numerous components designed to boost investment in clean energy.
In addition to tax credits for building solar plants like the one near Tucson, the package created tax credits for carbon capture, biofuels and alternative fuels, fuel cells and energy efficiency; new research and development programs for solar, wind, and energy storage; funding for energy efficiency projects and upgrades to the electric grid. The package underscores a new federal commitment to research on removing carbon from the atmosphere. It also cuts the use of hydrofluorocarbons and re-authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to curb emissions from diesel engines.
These are all a significant part of restoring the economy to its pre-pandemic health. With companies like TEP taking full advantage of numerous new federal fiscal advantages, it is clear the United States is taking positive step after positive step in the transition to renewable energy.