Solar research project already drawing interest
It looks like the benefits of a new solar technology project at Arizona Western College are materializing even before it is finished.
Bill Smith, director of facilities management and planning at AWC, recently said the eyes of the world are on the project under construction on 23 acres surrounding the campus west of Yuma - literally via a webcam on the campus website.
“The amount of interest that we're getting is just so far beyond what we thought,” he said.
And that could have big economic benefits for our community. Some companies are already inquiring about available land here for solar companies.
The magnet for this interest is a 5 megawatt solar research facility being built at AWC in a partnership between the college and five private companies who want to test various solar technologies in one of the world's premiere solar locations. The results of that research will be used to develop and improve solar energy equipment that will used around the world.
Once the solar array is completed in October, it will have the dual purpose of providing research opportunities for solar companies and for training students in solar technology so they can be prepared for these careers of the future.
In addition, energy generated from the array will replace power the college uses with expected savings of millions of dollars in energy costs over time. That will be a significant benefit for the taxpayers.
And those savings will come without cost to the school since the private companies are footing the bill for construction of the solar array at an estimated cost of as much as $40 million.
The reason for local excitement about the project is understandable. The community will have a valuable research facility that provides energy savings for the campus and training opportunities for students while at the same time potentially attracting new industry and jobs to the Yuma area.
It's hard to image a more beneficial arrangement.