It's Not Easy Being Green: Five Surprising Facts about Arizona’s Energy Portfolio

Kyle Ritland

June 2017

Energy Image.pngMost people who choose to go solar do so, at least in part, because they care about the environment. While saving money generally tops the list, the fact that turning sunlight into electricity creates zero carbon emissions is a welcome bonus for most.

Determining just how much any rooftop solar array will impact the environment is a complex equation with many variables. Certainly the size of your system and the amount of energy your family consumes are both critical, but have you considered where your local electricity comes from? Knowing this is key to evaluating your personal environmental impact.

To get your bulbs flickering, here are five facts about Arizona’s energy portfolio that may surprise or even shock you:

1. The vast majority of our energy comes from non-renewable sourcesThe greater Phoenix area averages more than 300 sunny days every year. So it may come as a shock that Arizona get’s more than 90% of its electricity from non-renewable sources. Specifically, coal (38%), natural gas (24%) and nuclear (29%). What’s worse is that a large percentage of the coal we burn is shipped from out of state, so there’s even more pollution created just getting it here. (http://www.swenergy.org/Data/Sites/1/media/documents/publications/factsheets/AZ-Factsheet.pdf). 

2. Our leading clean energy resource is hydroelectricThis may seem counterintuitive for a desert state, where solar should logically top of the list, but Arizona’s leading renewable energy resource is hydroelectric at 9.5%. That’s primarily the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dam (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=AZ). 

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3. Arizona has the largest nuclear power plant in the United StatesThe Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, rated at 3,937 net megawatts, is the largest net generator of electricity in the nation. By capacity, it is the second-largest power plant of any kind in that USA. It is also the only generating station of its kind not located near a body of water for cooling. The facility recycles treated wastewater as a cooling agent. (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=AZ).

4. If you’re driving an electric car and don’t have solar, you’re still pollutingMore than 60% of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. And that’s before you factor in nuclear power (29%). Unless you have a rooftop solar system, charging your electric vehicle at home simply shifts your carbon footprint from the gas pump to your wall outlet. To tap into the greenest utility power possible, consider charging your electric vehicle at night when natural gas peaking stations are shut down and hydroelectric makes up a large percentage of the overall mix. Of course the best and cleanest solution is to install solar and drive on sunshine.

5. Rooftop solar penetration in Arizona is only 5%According to recent studies, solar penetration in Arizona, residential and consumer combined, is approximatley 5%. That’s significantly better than the national average of around 1.5%, but given our heavy reliance on non-renewable sources compared to many northern states, combined with our near constant sunshine, there’s plenty of room for improvement here. And thanks to available tax incentives that can offset more than 30% of a solar purchase, the opportunity to turn Arizona’s most abundant resource into a cleaner and more sustainable future has never been better.

If you are interested in learning more about adding solar to your home, we invite you to contact us directly for a free quote.

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And don't forget, if you’re an APS customer, now is the time to lock-in today's rates for the next 20 years before the upcoming ACC vote changes everything! Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!