Ten days after the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of President Obama’s landmark health care package, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is ready to move on to one of her favorite topics: solar energy.
Giffords was joined by 50 or so of Arizona's solar boosters for a tour of Tucson Electric Power's solar test bed Thursday morning. The stop was part of a larger tour of Tucson’s leading solar research and production facilities.
Row after row of solar panels, resembling giant I-Pod screens, silently converted sunlight into electricity. Since 2003, the data from 600 solar modules has been used to improve solar panel efficiency and reduce costs.
“We are at the point where we are taking a big idea and making it into
a commercial reality,” said TEP CEO Paul Bonavia.
Later in the day, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved two new solar power systems that will produce enough energy to power more than 6,000 Tucson homes. When it's completed in January 2012, it will be the nation's largest solar-power system.
“This deal will make Tucson the premier solar city in the country,” said Bonavia.
The tour concluded at La Cima Middle School, where Mallory, a sleek, UA-built solar car, was parked in front of the school. Last week, Mallory traveled 3,150 miles on a gallon of gasoline at the Shell Eco Marathon in Houston.
At La Cima, Giffords introduced the Solar Schools Act, which is designed to help schools afford solar-power systems. Schools would be able to finance the purchase of a solar power system using proceeds from tax-exempt bonds, or enter into agreements with a solar installer, who will own the panels.
“One of the most important things incongress right now is not to affect the budget,” said Giffords. “This legislation is an opportunity for new financing mechanisms for schools and municipalities.”