Wind and Solar Energy in Arizona

Hydroelectric power has long dominated Arizona's renewable electricity generation but solar energy is providing increasing amounts of generation. According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2016, renewable energy provided more than 12% of Arizona’s net generation, solar energy accounting for about 5% of electricity generated. The state’s total installed solar-powered electricity-generating capacity has increased substantially over the past two decades. In addition, Arizona ranks third in the nation in solar capacity, after California and North Carolina. Arizona has some wind potential. The first commercial-scale wind farm in Arizona became operational in 2009. But, in 2016, wind provided only 0.5% of the state’s net electricity generation.


A combined solar and wind farm called Red Horse II located in Cochise County, Arizona is a 71 MW renewable energy project that consists of 15 Vestas wind turbines standing more than 400 feet tall as well as a field of solar panels. Electricity generated at Red Horse II is sold under a 20 year power purchase agreement with Tucson Electric Power Company. A recent addition to the Red Horse II solar and wind farm is Red Horse III, a 30 MW solar farm located near Red Horse II which is sold under a 25 year power purchase agreement with UniSource Electric. Electricity generated from these renewable energy projects are transmitted to meet urban energy needs.  Over next 30 years, Red Horse 2  farm is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5 million metric tons equivalent to removing 1 million cars from the roads. In a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 89% of Americans favor more solar panel farms and just 9% oppose and 83% support more wind turbine farms and only 14% oppose (Funk and Kennedy 2016.  The Politics of Climate.  A Report by the Pew Research Center.  October 4, 2016).


In recent news, a monitoring report prepared for Arizona Game and Fish Department revealed, in the wind farm’s first year, from July 2015 to July 2016, its 15 wind turbines, standing more than 400 feet tall, also killed an estimated 190 birds including federally protected golden eagle, and an endangered bat. As of now this wind-energy farm is under a federal criminal investigation.