Arizona strives to become the leading state in solar energy

Nissan claims to have one of the most eco friendly cars in the auto industry with its electric Leaf addition. (Photo by Jessie Wardarski)

The National Solar Tour will stop at the Tempe campus for a two-day event focusing on Arizona’s efforts to lead the U.S. in solar energy usage.

Arizona was recently ranked second in the country for installation of solar panel systems, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Arizona Solar Summit III, which is a part of the National Solar Tour, is a “grassroots” event sponsored by a national coalition of nonprofit organizations. It will meet Oct. 9 and 10 at the ASU SkySong campus.

The day will begin with breakfast and an introduction of the event. Participants will later take a bus to various places in the area that demonstrate the use of top solar technology.

This will be the third Arizona Solar Summit event in a little more than a year.

The project began in August 2011 with less than 130 participants; this year there are nearly 300.

ASU Associate Vice President of Economic Affairs Todd Hardy will speak at the summit event.

Hardy said the people in the solar energy industry can discuss challenges they face or will face in the future.

“It’s been a call of action throughout the community for people to come together and advance solar throughout the state, “ he said. “It’s Arizona Solar Summit and we want to be a state-wide initiative, not an ASU-only effort.”

Arizona is sunny 286 days out of the year, and many people believe it has the potential to be the leader in solar energy, according to the Arizona Solar Summit website.

Hardy said Arizona has the resources, but because the industry is still relatively new, no one has been able to reach the goal of being the “leader” in solar energy.

“I see the seeds for us to become the leader,” he said.

Hardy said he wants to see solar panels become integrated in a visually appealing way into roofing tiles, windows and other structures so more people will purchase the products.

On the first day of the event, participants will tour Arizona’s solar sites, including the Power Parasol at the Tempe campus.

The Power Parasol is located at Lot 59 and is more than five acres around and 24 feet high, covering 800 parking spaces.  The solar installation has more than 7,000 panels generating 2.1 megawatts of electricity.

The tour will also stop by the Decision Theater to see a demonstration of Az SMART, a tool that illustrates the distribution of solar installations.

The end of the tour will be a visit to the National Science Foundation-sponsored Solar Engineering Research Center for Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies located in ASU’s Research Park.

“I’m hoping solar is utilized to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels to the point where we will see solar in every community,” Hardy said.

Neetu Rao, research analyst for the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, helped organize the summit event.

“It’s important for our state to identify the challenges in solar and solar development and finding solutions to move the needle,” Rao said. “We see solar as the future of Arizona.”

A car show at the event will showcase six different sustainable and electric cars, including a Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

“We wanted to look at the latest in the market and these are the newest cars,” Rao said.

During the event, presenters will discuss how solar energy itself is a total infrastructure.

It can provide more than just energy; it also provides water and refrigeration, said electrical engineering professor Joseph Hui.

Hui will speak at the event and demonstrate how to charge his Tesla car at a charging station set up under a tent at SkySong for the event.

“I’m focusing on solar applications and I want to solve people’s problems,” Hui said.

Hui’s speech focuses on work he’s done with Africa’s Maasai tribe.

He and other professors brought the tribe a solar system, the Lotus, which provided the people with electricity for clean water, refrigeration and communication.

“I want to solve the energy problems of the world,” he said.

Many people have the misconception that solar energy means simply solar panels, he said.

Hui said he will focus on more of the usages of solar energy than the actual systems.

He said it’s important for people to know that these systems will ultimately provide a more modern society along with electricity.

“What we should think about is how solar can solve problems of energy and water,” he said.


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