Conservation and stewardship are at the core of Salt River Project’s culture. We demonstrate our commitment to these values through the choices we make in operating our facilities.
Whether we are working with community partners or researching emerging technologies, there is always a new project happening. Learn more about these efforts below.
Solar energy after the sun goes down
Solar power generation and energy usage have long been at odds. Peak solar energy production follows the sun, occurring when most are at work or school. Energy usage spikes late in the afternoon into the evening with each flick of the switch as SRP customers return home. Being a power source during this high usage period has not typically been the role of solar power — until now. The new Pinal Central Solar Energy Center (PCSEC) in Casa Grande, an integrated solar and battery storage system plant, stores clean energy produced during the day for use whenever energy demand increases.
The plant is the first of three large scale battery storage projects planned by SRP and the largest of its kind in Arizona. SRP will purchase all of the energy produced at the plant, which is owned and operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources .
“The project’s design allows SRP to utilize solar and battery storage together to optimize clean energy output to benefit our customers,” said SRP General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Mike Hummel. “In addition, the plant will assist SRP in meeting our goals for renewable energy while reducing carbon emissions.”
PCSEC by the numbers
- 20 MW solar photovoltaic generation facility
- Consists of 258,000 solar panels on 257 acres of land
- 10 MW lithium-ion battery storage system integrated with plant to store excess energy
- 150 construction jobs will be created and four full time positions
- Over $7 million in additional revenue will be generated for Pinal County over the operational lifetime
The SRP Board has set a goal to meet 20 percent of SRP’s retail electricity requirements through sustainable resources by the year 2020. Currently, SRP is on schedule to meet that goal by utilizing solar, wind, geothermal and hydro power and energy-efficiency measures. Additionally, SRP set a goal to reduce the amount of carbon emissions intensity by 33 percent by 2035.
“We are delighted to work with SRP to bring this innovative solar and energy storage facility online and deliver unprecedented value to its customers,” said Matt Handel, vice president of renewable development for NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun. “The project also brings significant economic benefit to the region, creating jobs and providing additional tax revenue to the communities that host it.”
SRP and City of Phoenix partner to plant trees
Nearly 1,200 trees will be planted in parks, schools and public areas as part of the Right Tree/Right Place program developed through a partnership between SRP and the city of Phoenix. The program identifies trees throughout the city that are encroaching on power lines, removes them, and either replants a power-line friendly tree in place or plants replacement trees at city parks, schools or neighborhoods located near the removal areas. Initially, 400 trees from around the city will be removed and replaced improving the safety and electrical reliability for SRP and local neighborhoods.
“The Right Tree/Right Place program will provide Phoenicians with beautiful trees and shade while helping SRP fulfill our obligation to our customers to provide safe and reliable electricity,” said Kelly Barr, SRP associate general manager corporate services and chief sustainability executive.
Each year, SRP Vegetation Management crews trim or remove thousands of trees growing directly under SRP’s distribution and transmission lines that pose risks to electric service reliability and public safety. The Right Tree/Right Place program will reduce this need and sequester an estimated 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to reducing annual emissions from 1,050 passenger vehicles and energy used to power 529 homes.
“The City Council is committed to reducing the urban heat-island effect by doubling the current tree and shade canopy to 25% by 2030,” said Phoenix District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski. “By partnering with SRP, we are using the team Phoenix approach to help us achieve that goal by planting more trees in a smarter way. We are removing trees from potentially dangerous situations and planting new trees in areas where additional shade is needed.”
Reducing our footprint
Workplace charging program largest in Arizona
It came down to numbers when SRP’s workplace charging program was confirmed as the largest in Arizona. As of 2017, there were 147 charging stations at 18 SRP facilities, 71 of which are reserved for employees. Ninety-six employees commute in an electric vehicle (EV) and those using workplace charging logged over 1 million miles. According to one SRP EV owner, it is a “full-on fabulous program.”
There is more to it than miles logged and charging stations though. It is another program that showcases SRP’s dedication to the environment. Fewer gasoline cars means a decrease in pollution due to car emissions. Collectively, SRP employees who use workplace charging have saved more than 250,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and 25,000 gallons of gasoline.
The workplace program is another piece of the puzzle for SRP when it comes to working towards a sustainable future. There is a plan to grow the program in the next six years, which supports SRP’s 2035 Sustainability Goals, by both reducing carbon dioxide emissions and increasing employees’ awareness of and participation in sustainability initiatives.
This effort is furthered when SRP’s customers become EV owners. To that end, SRP is knowledge sharing with its commercial and industrial customers to support them in creating their own workplace charging programs. The EV charging station rebate program gives business customers $500 for each charging port installed. For residential customers, there is the SRP Drive Electric ™ program that provides guidance on selecting an EV and a price plan that best fits their lifestyle.
Drone teams tested and coming to SRP
“This project features a great balance between real-world problems and fundamental research, which leads to great impact in both industry and academia,” said Dr. Zhang.
Precision position estimation, communications protocols and control algorithms are only a fraction of the work that has been completed by ASU’s Dr. Wenlong Zhang’s students to create “teams” of drones. The new drone teams, which have been successfully tested, are destined to become a part of SRP.
What role could a team of drones potentially fill? Thus far, they have been used to perform collaborative tasks such as land surveillance, ash pond monitoring and collecting water and soil samples. The new technology provides an efficient way to access remote locations and even urban ones, such as the canals, to take samples. The data is then transmitted in real-time to SRP scientists, speeding up the analysis and detection of issues.
SRP has had a research agreement with the ASU Tempe campus for more than 35 years and added a contract specifically for Polytechnic in 2012, with grants going to the campus’s Advanced Technology Innovation Center. The Polytechnic partnership targets projects related to key utility issues and renewable and sustainable energy – and it has thrived.
“It’s really a success story in that the program has grown a lot,” said SRP’s Chico Hunter, Manager, Research & Environmental Policy. “It helps keep us in touch with what is going on and how we can apply it to SRP’s research needs.”
Sustainable sub-zero industrial freezer first in the state
The Viking Cold Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technology stores thermal energy at night by freezing food-safe Phase Change Material (PCM) specially formulated to freeze at -18°F. The refrigeration equipment then runs significantly less during peak hours, and the freezer “rides” the PCM to maintain stable temperatures and protect the food. The TES provides energy and cost savings for customers with industrial freezers, such as Bashas', and also provides long-term benefits to all SRP customers by reducing peak demand.
The project was a result of a partnership between SRP, Viking Cold Solutions and Bashas’ Family of Stores. SRP is collaborating with Arizona State University's School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment , along with Nexant's Utility Services Group , to measure the results of the project. Results will be used to extrapolate the potential impact of this technology on additional low-temperature refrigeration loads in the Phoenix area.