Tempe wants Valley residents to know its Beach Park for the Town Lake, its numerous festivals, a historic baseball diamond - and now, solar panels.

The city is installing the panels as a high-visibility demonstration project to promote green energy, along with Arizona Public Service. The utility chose the Tempe site in a statewide competition to locate solar panels in prominent places.

With one million visitors a year, Tempe Beach Park fit the bill.

The panels will replace a shade structure now covered with a blue canvas, near the splash pad play area. A new structure with river rock pylons will support the panels, and tables will sit underneath to create a gathering area. Signs will outline how the panels turn sun into electricity.

"Part of the goal that the city has is to provide education to the public," said Amanda Nelson, a Tempe spokeswoman.

Construction should begin soon, she said. The city would like to debut the panels on April 22, which is Earth Day.

The city will spend $50,000 on the panels, which is about 38 percent of their cost. The remainder will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Tempe estimates the panels will generate $1,643 worth of electricity a year, which will be used to power some equipment at the 25-acre park.

The city uses solar panels to power signs that display driver speeds, on a light at the Town Lake marina and a few other places.

"There are a few little things here and there but this would definitely be the biggest one," Nelson said.

The panels will occupy a popular gathering area at the park and will be in view from the eastbound Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway, the southbound Mill Avenue bridge and Rio Salado Parkway. They'll also be visible to the crowds who gather for events such as the Fourth of July festival, New Year's Eve party, music festivals, Oktoberfest and the P. F. Chang's Rock ‘N Roll Marathon.

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