The biggest solar farm built to serve Tucson Electric Power customers is rising from the desert floor south of the city, and in a few months it will be churning out clean energy while the sun shines — and even when it doesn’t.
The Wilmot Energy Center, a 100-megawatt AC photovoltaic project with 30MW of linked battery storage, is under construction by developer NextEra Energy Resources and is scheduled to begin operations as early as April, a spokesman for the Florida-based company said.
TEP will buy power from the center under a 20-year contract. The Wilmot Energy Center is a key piece of TEP’s plan to reach 70% renewable energy generation by 2035, [TEP spokesman Joe] Barrios said.
The battery system will allow TEP to bank power for the late afternoon and early evening summer hours of peak demand when power production from photovoltaic panels starts fading with the sun.
Barrios noted that including two 10MW battery systems TEP installed in 2017, TEP will have about 50MW of energy storage resources by the end of 2021, with plans to expand that to more than 1,400MW by 2035.
Power from the Wilmot Energy Center will be relatively cheap. TEP made industrywide news when it announced in 2017 that it would buy Wilmot’s solar power for less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour, or under 4.5 cents with battery power included — an industry low at the time.