Big solar array gives mobile-home park power, shade

August 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

An east-side mobile home retirement community has switched on one of the Tucson area’s biggest solar-energy carport installations — and it shades the shuffleboard courts as well.

Far Horizons East, a 44-year-old mobile home park at 7570 E. Speedway, turned on its 630-kilowatt (DC) photovoltaic array on Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by solar supporter U.S. Rep. Ron Barber.

The overall system, which consists of 14 different carport installations, will offset an estimated 46 percent of Far Horizons East’s power usage, property manager Denny Yoas said.

It is technically the biggest residential carport-type installation in Tucson, Yoas noted. The overall system covers 56,000 square feet with more than 2,300 individual silicon-based solar panels. The photovoltaic arrays also will provide much-appreciated shade over parking areas around the age-restricted community’s main clubhouse, the club’s shuffleboard courts and over Far Horizons’ recreational-vehicle parking area.

The installation, which qualified for ratepayer-funded utility incentives through Tucson Electric Power Co. as well as state and federal tax credits, will help Far Horizon manage its energy costs and indirectly benefit residents of the community’s 400 homes, Yoas said.

“If the savings come through to the ownership, that will be reflected down the road” in rates charged by the community, he said. And then there’s the abundant new shade, “which in Tucson is a huge thing,” Yoas said.

The system will have significant environmental benefits, avoiding the equivalent of more than 750 tons of carbon emissions annually, according to the project developer.

The system was developed and built by California-based Cal Energy Group and Cenergy Power, with civil engineering by Tucson-based WLB Group, said John Calvert, president and CEO of Cal Energy.

The cost of the installation was not disclosed.

Calvert said that since its founding in 2011, Cal Energy has focused on commercial-sized solar energy systems in Arizona, including mobile home parks on so-called “master meters” serving whole communities.

Cal Energy’s other Arizona projects include a 630-kW photovoltaic sun-tracking ground installation at Plaza Del Sol Mobile Home Resort, 1655 W. Ajo Way, which the company installed in collaboration with Stockbridge Energy in 2011, and an 806-kW photovoltaic array at Sedona Red Rock High School, completed in 2010.

Though the Far Horizons system may be the biggest carport-mounted array of its kind in a residential-zoned area, the Southern Arizona VA Health System in South Tucson has the area’s biggest carport system, with 3 megawatts over acres of parking structures, according to records kept by TEP and the city of Tucson.

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