(BENSON) Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-CD2) has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for the dedication of the Apache Solar Project, which is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Apache Solar project site.

Meanwhile, more than 77,000 solar panels are installed and facing the sky at the Apache Solar Project, ready to generate power once testing and installation of the last major components is finished.

Ken Frego, site superintendent for Swinerton, the contractor on the project, said all 77,053 solar panels had been installed by the last week of July.

“We’re doing the wiring and testing now of the entire field,” Frego said.

Frego said the field is made up of hundreds of modules, each of which consists of 29 panels. Each module makes up one circuit.

“We start out with individual modules and test them one at a time, to ensure they can deliver power. We’re in what’s called the ‘pre-startup testing’ phase,” Frego said.

Sean Begay, project engineer, said the project is still on track to “go live” in mid-September.

“We’re just about completed with the connections to all the panels, and all the DC (direct current) cables have been installed. Then we have the AC (alternating current) connection, the medium voltage cable carrying the power that is converted from DC power (from the panels) to AC power (to the grid),” Begay said.

“As of right now, we’ll finish up the ‘gen tie’ line, the main run that will go to the substation (at the Apache Generating Station) from the field, and we should be completely finished at this site by the end of July,” Begay said.

“Everything’s gone great, we haven’t had any problems at all. Everything looks good and we don’t anticipate any problems once we get it fired up,” Begay said.

At peak, there were 140 workers on site, installing approximately 3,000 panels a day, Begay said.

Apache Solar Project Fast Facts

Planning for the solar field began in 2015 and the construction permit was granted on April 13, 2016. The initial concepts varied between a 2 MW, 6 MW, and 14 MW project, but interest among the Class A member cooperatives for portions of the power grew to the point that a 17 MW project was planned and finalized with the members in November.

The AEPCO board decided to offer the project to other organizations, and in February of this year, the project increased to a total of 20 MW after Electrical District 2 (www.ED2.com) subscribed to 3 MW.

Apache Solar Project Fast Facts:

  • 20 MW AC to the grid.
  • Total acres: 134 (all existing AEPCO property)
  • Total number of panels: 77,053
  • Each panel produces 320 watts
  • Nine 2.5 MW inverters, which convert the DC power generated by the panels to AC power
  • Construction and commercial operation date (COD), the date the array goes live and begins producing power to the grid, mid-September 2017 (projected)