Scenario study: Solar enables Arizona to easily meet power goal

The study was undertaken in response to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule, which requires states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from existing electricity generation facilities by that deadline. States can use a number of strategies to reach their targets, including additional solar and wind development.

The Sonoran Institute, in collaboration with Arizona State University’s Energy Policy Innovation Council (EPIC), identified 15 solar and wind projects that could be generating power by 2022, the rule’s interim deadline, with additional projects being located on lands already identified as potentially suitable by 2030.

“The report for the first time provides a detailed road map for developing the most promising renewable energy projects and locations across Arizona both for generating and transmitting power from solar and wind,” said co-author John Shepard, senior program director of the Sonoran Institute.

One potential hitch: In order to realize this potential, Arizona utilities will need to reach purchase agreements for the renewable energy projects coming on line in Arizona so that other states don’t contract for that power first, the study found.

“Any increase in clean energy is good, regardless of what state it serves. It would just be a shame to see Arizona not take advantage of its own assets, first and foremost,” Shepard said. “Arizona has an opportunity here and if it doesn’t take advantage of it, California just might.”

“While a CPP-driven increase in build-out of renewable generation is perceived to be potentially disruptive by some, the reality is that it simply reflects what is already occurring in the energy sector,” said Mahesh Morjaria, Vice President of Systems Development at First Solar. “Due to reduced costs, solar and wind generation have become increasingly competitive with other energy sources, driving the growth of these carbon-free generation assets. In addition, grid integration technologies and markets are helping our transmission system manage increasing amounts of solar and wind.”

The Sonoran Institute’s build-out study isn’t intended to prescribe specific solar and wind development, but rather illustrate how the state can fully use its own assets to generate cleaner energy.

By pursuing a detailed build-out plan for large-scale renewable energy, Arizona can create a comprehensive strategy for siting solar and wind, determine where that energy can best be fed into the state’s transmission grid, and identify what additional actions are needed to take advantage of the state’s clean energy resources.

The study does recommend steps that can be taken by federal and state agencies, utilities, solar and wind developers, and other stakeholder to realize the build-out scenario and meet EPA Clean Power Plan’s emissions targets, including:

  • Promote siting of large-scale wind and solar sites on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.
  • Further evaluate the viability of U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Arizona State Trust lands for renewable energy development.
  • Create an inter-agency task force to speed environmental reviews of proposed large-scale renewable energy projects and extend development incentives for them.
  • Broaden regional planning for energy transmission corridors through Arizona, Nevada and the California desert region and include broad regional planning in utilities’ resource decisions.
  • Consider improved compensation to utilities and developers for adopting the technology to make renewable energy sources readily available.

“Renewable energy has proven it can create benefits for the environment, local communities, and consumers,” said Jason Du Terroil, senior business developer for Iberdrola Renewables and an advisor to the study. “We have enjoyed our partnership with Arizona while developing, building, and operating wind and solar plants here. As the Sonoran Institute’s study underscores, the Clean Power Plan opens up new opportunities for us to invest further in the state, put Arizonans to work at good jobs and create a clean energy future.”

The Sonoran Institute is a nonprofit organization that inspires and enables community decisions and public policies that respect the land and people of western North America. Join us throughout 2015 in celebrating a landmark 25 Years Strong, Shaping the Future of the West. For more information, visit

The Energy Policy Innovation Council informs and educates policymakers on current, complex issues in energy policy that impact Arizona and beyond. The Council is housed within the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona:

Additional contacts and resources:

The full report can be found at:

Kris Mayes, Director of the Energy Policy Innovation Council (EPIC) and Utility of the Future Center, (602) 757-7434,

Edward Burgess, Consultant, Energy Policy Innovation Council (EPIC), Arizona State University, (941) 266-0017,

Jason Du Terroil, Senior Business Developer, Iberdrola Renewables, (210) 452–5755, 

Dr. Mahesh Morjaria, Vice President of Systems Development, First Solar, (602) 427-2935,  Mahesh.Morjaria@FIRSTSOLAR.COM


About the Sonoran Institute

Founded in 1990, the Sonoran Institute’s mission is to connect people and communities with the natural resources that nourish and sustain them. We work at the nexus of commerce, community, and conservation to help people in the North American West build the communities they want to live in while preserving the values that brought them here. We envision a West where civil dialogue and collaboration are hallmarks of decision making, where people and wildlife live in harmony, and where clean water, air, and energy are assured. For more information visit: