Staying ahead of the sun

By Vin Nitido, Trico CEO and GM

The electric industry is undergoing a major transformation. Utilities, including electric cooperatives, are dramatically altering both the mix of fuels used to generate electricity and how electricity gets to co-op members.

Changes in technology and the market have contributed to making renewable energy more cost-effective. This, along with increased interest among our Members, has Trico and co-ops across the country finding new ways to bring the benefits of solar to our service areas.

Co-ops are now purchasing and generating more renewable resources, bringing wind, solar and geothermal energy into the electric power system, meaning electricity is becoming “greener.”

Trico has been a part of this technology since 2012, when Trico completed the installation of the SunWatts Community Sun Farm, a 227 kW, ground-mounted solar power system at its facility located at our office on Tangerine Road.

In January 2019, we continue the trend with the dedication of a new solar facility – Avion Solar. A 10-megawatt alternating current photovoltaic solar generating facility on West Avra Valley Road, within the Town of Marana. Trico and Torch Clean Energy are partners on the project, which began construction in August 2018 and began producing power in December.

Avion Solar has more than 40,000 solar photovoltaic modules and sits on approximately 80 acres of land previously used for farming and owned by Avra Plantation, Inc. The solar panels have single-axis tracking devices that automatically track the sun throughout the day to maximize power generation. The power generated by the Avion Solar facility will offset approximately 4.5% percent of Trico’s overall electric energy needs.

Avion will produce more than 30,000 megawatt-hours of electric energy each year, or enough to power about 3,000 average residential homes in the Trico service territory.

Looking beyond the New Year, Trico continues to move into the age of Information. Technology is moving fast and the future is becoming more and more data intensive with smart homes, electric vehicles and automated metering systems. We will continue to see the integration of home to utility.

Nevertheless, one thing we must always keep in mind as a community-owned cooperative, our mission is to provide our Members safe, reliable energy in an environmentally responsible and cost-effective manner. And, I believe the new Avion Solar facility exemplifies that commitment.