The Papago Solar + Storage Project

The Papago Solar + Storage Project will consist of 300 megawatts alternating current and 1,200 megawatt hours of energy storage facility in Tonopah.

Canadian Solar Inc.’s Recurrent Energy is planning to build a 2,800-acre energy storage facility in the far West Valley, near Tonopah.

The Papago Solar + Storage Project will consist of 300 megawatts alternating current and 1,200 megawatt hours of energy storage facility in Maricopa County. The project is expected to be fully operational by 2023.

The site is about 5 miles west of Tonopah. According to Recurrent Energy officials, the project is expected to create 450 construction jobs and power 57,000 homes.

“This project has been in development for quite a number of years, over five years,” said Paris Hays, director of development for Recurrent Energy West projects. 

“Something that excites us about the project is the ability to help Arizona’s communities transition to a low carbon economy at a cost-competitive rate. We think the project is in the right place, and we’re happy to be supporting the local community.”

On Aug. 17, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved the Papago Solar Project’s application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility authorizing construction of the project’s approximately 0.3-mile-long 500kV generation intertie (electric transmission connection) line, which will connect the project to APS’ Delaney substation. 

Recurrent Energy purchased about 120 acres near 411th Avenue and Interstate 10 in November for $2 million for a proposed substation and 500 kilovolt transmission line to be connected to the adjacent photovoltaic electricity-generating and energy storage facility.

Hays said a project like this will benefit West Valley residents from construction to completion.

“The project, when it’s under construction, will provide about 450 construction jobs,” he said. “Also, when it’s under operations, it’ll be generating approximately $29 million in taxes for local and state governments. So, in addition to just providing good jobs, we’re going to be present in the community over the long term by being a good taxpayer. And when it’s operational, it’ll also be employing folks on-site as well.”

Environmentally, the project will provide residents a cheaper alternative to electricity as well as limiting fossil fuel sources of energy. 

“We are typically one of the lowest-cost providers of electricity,” Hays said. “When we plug into the grid in Arizona, and Arizona ratepayers switch on their light bulb, the cost of doing so will be a lot less using solar energy than say a fossil resource, typically, in most cases. For the community and for ratepayers, we’re helping lower the cost of energy.

“More on the environmental side, we displace fossil fuel sources of energy as well. We’ve calculated the project will displace about 600,000 pounds of oxides of nitrogen, nitrous oxide, and 800 million pounds of CO2 per year. Those are massive numbers that should really improve the air quality in the region.”

Recurrent Energy is the U.S. project development arm of Canadian Solar. Recurrent Energy has about 5 gigawatts of solar and storage projects in development across the United States.

The Papago project near Tonopah aligns with Recurrent Energy’s other projects in the United States. 

“We have a national footprint across the U.S., and at any given time, we will be under construction or operating projects of this magnitude,” he said. 

“This is the level that we like to play at. And currently we have a few hundred megawatts across a couple projects under construction in Texas. We have some under construction in California. This Papago project will be the only project under construction in Arizona at this time, but we also have done other projects in the state as well. So we’re familiar with the state, familiar with the regulators and familiar with the customers.”

The projected completion date is 2023, but Hays said it will likely take longer. 

“2023 might be a little bit of an optimistic year to come into operation,” he said. “At this point, I think we’re probably gearing more toward a 2024 or even a 2025 time frame. 

“We’ve worked with all the state agencies and local agencies to make sure that this thing is designed and will operate according to the applicable zoning and according to state and local laws and ordinances. 

“We’ve gone through a very robust permitting process where we did welcome public input into the project’s design. We were happy to see the community support here and to be fully permitted at this point.”

Hays said Tonopah was the ideal location for the Papago project.

“One thing that’s important for utility scale power plants of any technology is the proximity to the grid,” he said. 

“Our project is adjacent to a large substation called the Delaney substation. And we will be interconnecting our project into the grid at that substation. Also, there’s a lot of good sunshine in the area, and as a solar company, that’s one of the first things we look for.”