Tucson Electric Power is one of the nation’s leading solar utilities, and its broad commitment to renewable energy continues to generate awards and recognition.

TEP followed its 2012 Solar Electric Power Association Solar Utility of the Year national honor with another top-three finish in 2013. The utility also has earned several statewide awards, including the 2013 Environmental Stewardship Award for Southern Arizona and the 2012 Governor’s Green Innovator of the Year.

TEP ranks among the top 10 utilities nationwide for kilowatt hours per customer provided by solar energy.

By the end of 2014, TEP and its sister company, UniSource Energy Services, plan to have about 270 megawatts of utility-scale solar generating capacity, more than 110 megawatts of utility-scale wind energy capacity and 90 megawatts of distributed solar and wind capacity. All told, that’s enough electricity to power more than 110,000 homes for a year.

“If we can’t make solar work in Southern Arizona, we can’t reasonably expect anyone else to make it work. It’s an integral part of our energy portfolio,” said Carmine Tilghman, Senior Director of Wholesale, Fuels & Renewable Resources for TEP.

TEP takes an active role in the development of renewable energy projects, which allows the company to set design and location parameters that align with our community’s values. For example, in selecting sites for solar generation, TEP considers the topography of the land and works to minimize water usage.

“We are willing to experiment and find out what technologies and locations work the best for our system,” Tilghman said. “Our program has emerged as a very successful model of renewable energy development.”

On the technological side, TEP tests different types of renewable systems and maintains the flexibility to adjust plans to take advantage of new or enhanced technologies, which always is a possibility in such a rapidly changing field.

TEP collaborates with the University of Arizona to operate the Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park, one of the largest multi-technology solar evaluation sites in the country. The Solar Zone deploys seven slightly different systems, all at the same location, allowing for analysis of their costs and benefits.

“We want to explore as many technologies as possible. We get to see first-hand which technologies are best-suited for Tucson and for our customers,” Tilghman said. “The fact that we are a solar hub and are able to look at all of these systems in one place is a great opportunity.”

And others are watching. Tilghman is frequently approached by other utilities throughout the country to learn more about TEP’s successes with its renewable energy program.

“They call us,” he said. “We’re certainly not the biggest utility, and we don’t have the resources available to larger companies, but we have the track record, the experience, and are considered one of the leading solar utilities in the nation.”

To date, TEP and UES have invested nearly $160 million to own, operate and develop solar facilities — a testament to their commitment to renewable energy.

“We’re always thinking about the next creative solution when it comes to solar. The community supports it; our customers want TEP to be the next-generation solar utility.”