UA Tech Park Wins U.S. Innovation Award

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The U.S. Economic Development Administration has named The Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park the winner of its Innovation in Green Technology Award. The Arizona initiative was among four recipients of the 2010 Innovation in Economic Development Awards, announced at the Southeast Workforce and Economic Development Conference this month.

Also cited at the conference, which was co-hosted by EDA and the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, were CONNECT of La Jolla, CA, which won for Innovation in Regional Innovation Clusters (RICs); Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP) of Lexington, Kentucky, for for Innovation in Commercialization; and Pennsylvania Center for Trade Development “Envoy Program” of Harrisburg, PA, for Innovation in Global Export Promotion.

The Solar Zone is a comprehensive, innovative economic development strategy to create a supportive environment where companies can develop, test and demonstrate the next generation of renewable energy products and technologies.  The goals of the Solar Zone are to attract private investment; create sustainable, high-wage jobs; develop a skilled workforce; support utility efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels; and educate the public on the importance of sustainable energy.

The Solar Zone’s comprehensive scope is key to its innovative approach to creating a regional solar-based economy.  At completion, the Solar Zone will accommodate all significant components of the solar energy continuum: generation; manufacturing and assembly; research and development; workforce development; and public awareness.

Phase one of the Solar Zone development is a unique public/private collaboration between the University of Arizona and Tucson Electric Power (TEP). Construction of phase one, which includes six solar generation projects sited at the Solar Zone by TEP, occupies 222 acres within the UA Tech Park and is expected to be completed by 2012.  The projects represent a capital investment of $80-100 million and will combine to generate approximately 45,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) per year, enough to power nearly 4,000 Tucson homes.

“The Solar Zone offers TEP a unique opportunity to evaluate the performance of various solar generating technologies side by side, at the same location,” said David Hutchens, Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Resource Planning for TEP and its parent company, UniSource Energy Corporation (NYSE: UNS). “It’s an innovative approach to renewable resource development that supports the expansion of southern Arizona’s green energy economy.”

Bruce Wright, the Associate Vice President for University Research Parks added, “We believe that the Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park will be the nation’s largest multi-tenant, multi-technology demonstration site.”

The Solar Zone has moved from a concept to reality in less than a year.  Site preparations are estimated at $2.5 million and are being accelerated so that the solar companies can qualify for available federal tax credits before they are extinguished.

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