When you think of Salt River Project, chances are you think no further than the light switch or utility bill. But behind the curtain there's a lot that goes into ensuring the lights come on when you flip that switch.
2011 was a busy year for SRP as we looked for ways to invest in green energy and programs that help our customers save electricity and money. Earlier in the year, after hosting a series of public meetings and surveying our customers and stakeholders, the SRP board voted to increase its commitment to the Sustainable Portfolio.
With a goal to meet 20 percent of our expected retail energy requirements with sustainable resources by 2020, we have continued to pursue ways to increase our renewable resources while providing our customers with incentives to save energy.
A few months ago, SRP dedicated the Copper Crossing Solar Ranch in Florence. Built by Iberdrola Renewables, the 20-megawatt project sits on 144 acres and is expected to provide enough clean, homegrown energy to power about 3,700 homes each year. The more than 66,000 solar panels will help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by an estimated 575,000 metric tons during SRP's 25-year contract with the plant owner.
In addition, SRP recently signed an agreement for the purchase of 49 megawatts of geothermal energy from Hudson Ranch II, a plant that will be built in southern California. The Salton Sea geothermal resource is one of the world's hottest and most prolific for the production of energy. Starting next month, SRP is expected to begin receiving 49 megawatts of geothermal energy from Hudson Ranch I.
SRP and Colorado-based juwi solar Inc. also signed a 20-year power purchase agreement for 19 megawatts of solar photovoltaic energy from a facility to be built in Queen Creek. SRP will purchase all of the solar energy produced at the plant, which is expected to be online by the end of 2012.
The Queen Creek plant will utilize approximately 90,000 photovoltaic modules mounted on a single-axis tracking system that follows the sun. It will offset approximately 21,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions each year, the equivalent of taking approximately 4,100 cars off the road.
On the energy-efficiency side, we continue to offer innovative and cost-effective ways for our customers to save money on their electric bills. For instance, right now an easy way to save money - and avoid pulling out the ladder as frequently - would be by making the switch to CFL light bulbs, which use about 75 percent less energy and produce less heat, than standard incandescent bulbs. By visiting www.savewithsrp.com, you can find stores Valleywide that offer an SRP discount of up to $6 off CFL bulbs.
I'm happy to report that, SRP today is on track to meet our FY12 goal of providing 9 percent of retail energy needs with sustainable resources, including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydro power, conservation and energy efficiency. And we are continuing to explore the array of resources available to us.
Our customers are the key to SRP's sustainability efforts. They have told us that sustainable energy is important to them as long as it is affordable. To that end, SRP will continue to meet those expectations by searching for sustainable solutions that balance our environmental commitment with sound economics. Whether it's solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy or energy efficiency, SRP will continue to add sustainable resources that will deliver economic and environmental benefits for our customers now and in the future.
• Debbie Kimberly is director of customer programs and marketing for Salt River Project.