BENSON – Congresswoman Martha McSally (AZ-02) was the keynote speaker as Arizona G&T Cooperatives (AzGT) celebrated adding 20 MW of renewable solar energy to its energy portfolio during the dedication of the Apache Solar Project on Sept. 22, 2017.

The Apache Solar Project is on the east side of Highway 191, just north of the Apache Generating Station.

“This is a great example of a bottom-up, community-driven investment in innovation, and a community-driven commitment to energy diversity, as opposed to a top-down decision made by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., telling everybody what to do in a ‘one size fits all’ way,” McSally said.

Apache Solar sits on 134 acres that were already AzGT property, which made the project more cost effective.

“I really want to congratulate Arizona G&T Cooperatives for its decision, and the process, everything that was done here to get to this point. This is the model the rest of the country should follow,” McSally said.

Planning began in 2015 and the construction permit was granted on April 13, 2016. Initially, the request for proposals (RFP) to solar contractors the following month was for a 2 MW, 6 MW, and 14 MW project. However, there was more interest than expected and AzGT contracted for a 17 MW project in August 2016. Working closely with the AzGT Class A Members Cooperatives, AzGT achieved full subscription and awarded a 17 MW contract on November 22, 2016.  The AEPCO board of directors then decided to offer some of the solar project to other organizations and in February 2017 the project increased to 20 MW with Electrical District No. 2 (ED2) subscribing to 3 MW.

“Obviously, the more folks that are subscribing, the lower the cost, and that is the essence of cooperatives,” AzGT CEO Patrick Ledger said.

“A lot of public power, a lot of co-ops are small. But when we get together, you’re taking advantage of an economy of scale.  And wherever we can do that, we should,” Ledger said.

Preparation began with clearing the site in March 2017, and construction took approximately six months.

Racks of panels at Apache Solar track the sun to maximize their output throughout the day.

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
  • AEPCO designed and installed the 15/20/25 MVA 69/34.5 kVA step up transformer in the Apache 69 kV yard

About Arizona G&T Cooperatives

Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO) and Sierra Southwest (Sierra) collectively make up Arizona G&T Cooperatives. AEPCO owns and operates the 605-megawatt (combined gross) Apache Generating Station, located at Cochise, east of Benson. AEPCO also owns and maintains more than 610 miles of transmission lines and 50 substations to provide wholesale electric power from Apache to six member distribution cooperatives in southern Arizona, western New Mexico, northwestern Arizona and California.

Sierra is the vehicle to develop new ways to serve the renewable energy needs of our Member cooperatives and customers, and helps maximize solar and other renewable tax credits that are available. Sierra has initiated two utility scale solar projects; the 20 MW Apache Solar project on AEPCO property adjacent to and northeast of AGS, and the Anza Electric Cooperative 2 MW solar array adjacent to the Anza EC headquarters in Anza, California. Sierra will play a key role as we adapt to the changing energy landscape.

Combined, the distribution cooperatives that receive AEPCO’s wholesale power serve more than 150,000 meters representing more than 400,000 individual residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial member/consumers.

The Class A member cooperatives that receive wholesale power from AEPCO include Duncan Valley Electric Cooperative, Duncan; Graham County Electric Cooperative, Pima; Mohave Electric Cooperative, Bullhead City; Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative, Willcox; Trico Electric Cooperative, Marana; and our California member, Anza Electric Cooperative, Anza, California.

These member cooperatives own the AzGT and, by extension, the G&T Cooperatives are owned by their members—the people at the end of the line who use the power.