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Renewable energy company plans 3,000-acre solar energy project in Buckeye

Buckeye will add to its list of renewable energy sources with a new 3,000-acre solar energy project near the State Route 85 and Riggs Road alignment. 

Called the Sonoran Solar Project, the NextEra Energy Resources plant announced by the city this week will have a capacity of up to 260 megawatts of solar energy combined with 260 megawatts of battery energy storage.

“The time is right in our country for renewable energy, and Arizona has a terrific solar resource to be able to harvest the sun and create clean, renewable energy,” said Bryan Garner, a spokesperson for NextEra Energy Resources, which is headquartered in Florida. 

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Arizona ranked fifth in the nation for solar in 2021. The state also had 7,346 solar jobs and 315 solar companies within its borders, including 66 manufacturers and 149 installers or developers. 

More than 5,200 megawatts of solar are also installed, while growth is projected to increase by 4,161 megawatts over five years in Arizona. About 8% of the state’s electricity comes from solar, the association said.

The new project estimates a $600 million capital investment in the community, a $500,000 annual tax impact and employment of 500 construction workers over 18 months and about 15 full-time employees once fully operational.

Construction is expected to start in November. The project could be operational by June 2023, according to the company. 

‘Another significant investment’

The project is “another significant capital investment” into the city, the West Valley and the state, said Buckeye Mayor Eric Orsborn in a statement. 

“It’s another example of Buckeye’s commitment to sustainable and renewable energy production,” Orsborn said. 

According to NextEra Energy Resources, solar photovoltaic panels consist of glass, polymer, aluminum, copper and semiconductor materials that can be recovered and recycled. The majority of battery energy storage facilities employ lithium-ion batteries, which have been used in the electric vehicle industry, the company said. 

NextEra Energy Resources currently has three operational solar sites and one wind site across Arizona in addition to multiple projects in development. The company operates solar projects in 27 states, according to its website.

NextEraEnergy will lease the land from the Arizona division of the Bureau of Land Management and work with Salt River Project, Garner said. The project had been discussed in “some form or another” for nearly a decade, according to Garner. 

“We just happened to be at the right moment in time where the cost of renewable energy (has) come down so much, that demand for sustainable clean resources has increased so much,” he said. 

Last year, governments and businesses shifting to renewable energy led to massive land deals in the state for solar projects. Power from solar panels in Arizona can be transmitted to states like California, which has more strict requirements on renewable energy use. 

Solar prices have decreased by 43% over the past five years in Arizona, according to SEIA.

Dave Roderique, Buckeye’s economic development director said that the $600 million capital investment in Buckeye from NextEra Energy is “a great partnership for us and another example of the city’s commitment to sustainable and renewable energy production.” 

“Having home-grown energy in our backyard will have direct benefits to our community and the entire West Valley with the production of 260 megawatts of solar energy, making the electric grid more reliable and efficient,” Roderique said in an email. 

In Buckeye, a development company broke ground in June on a major biogas projects, another renewable energy source that aims to replace natural gas. 

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