Arizona Western College Announces Historic Solar Array Installation, Curriculum, Partnerships

According to the “Guinness Book of World Records”, Yuma, Arizona is the sunniest place on earth. In the next eleven months, Arizona Western College (AWC) in Yuma, in collaboration with PPA Partners Arizona, LLC (PPA) and Arizona Public Service (APS) will capitalize on that by installing the single largest solar array on any U.S. college or university campus.

Combined with the existing rooftop array on the AWC Agriculture and Science building, the total solar installation at the college will be 5 megawatts, and will generate enough energy annually to cover 100% of the college’s energy needs.

The new 4.995 megawatt array will serve as a foundation for local education and workforce development in renewable energy technology and engineering. The main array will be joined by multiple testing and demonstration sites for manufacturers from around the world to test their latest products.

The unique characteristics of the planned array make the project truly historic.

“From the multiple technologies that will keep pace with changes in the industry, to the constant data that will be available both in the classroom and to manufacturers, this array has the potential to not only change the face of the economy in Yuma, but to impact solar education and research on a national and global level,” said AWC President Dr. Marc Nigliazzo.

The planned installation includes multiple photovoltaic technologies, including High Concentration, Low Concentration, Mono Crystalline, Poly Crystalline and Thin Film. The installation also incorporates single and dual axis tracking systems along with state of the art metering and inverter technology.

The main array is primarily scheduled to be sited on the eastern edge of the campus where it will have unlimited access to Yuma’s 354 annual solar generation days.  A new Renewable Energy Technology Center building will also be built in that area so that students, faculty and researchers have immediate access to the technologies.  One megawatt of the array will be in the form of a new parking lot adjacent to the campus’ main entrance and will feature 250 parking spaces shaded by solar technology.

Financial incentives from Arizona Public Service’s (APS)Renewable Energy Incentive Program are helping defray nearly half the cost of the solar system.  APS also has been working closely with AWC and PPA to bring the project to fruition. ”It takes a collaborative effort to ensure that the many benefits of renewable energy are leveraged in our community. This project takes us one step closer to creating a sustainable energy future for Arizona,” noted Andrea Bereznak, APS Community Development Manager.

Arizona Western College currently has in place green technology embedded curriculum in science, engineering, and career and technical programs.  Additionally, the College is working with local high schools and the local workforce development organization to deliver a weatherization program.  AWC will now begin its efforts to put in place cutting edge solar technology curriculum that will include the campus PV array and testing facilities as learning laboratories.  Development of the associate in science degree in renewable energy with transfer pathways to the baccalaureate degree is central to this curriculum development with anticipated availability of programs beginning fall semester 2011. AWC has strong partnerships with Northern Arizona University in Yuma and the University of Arizona co-located on the Yuma campus with articulated programs in numerous academic disciplines including engineering and environmental science.  These partnerships will continue to be the key to development of this state-of-the-art educational programming in the very near future.

Note:  This piece was submitted by Dr. Joann Linville, Vice President for Learning Services at Arizona Western College in Yuma, AZ.  If you have questions or want more information about this, contact Dr. Linville via email or at (928) 344-7609


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