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Solar news: Arizona regulators choose renewables, Hawaii college goes 100% solar

In this week’s Solar News Roundup, a college in Hawaii looks to become the first 100% renewable campus in the U.S. with solar power, and regulators in Arizona decide to put a hold on new gas plants in favor of cleaner energy sources.

Arizona regulators deny natural gas infrastructure in favor of renewables

In a surprise move, Arizona energy regulators recently decided to issue a nine-month moratorium on new gas plants above 150 megawatts (MW). The state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), had proposed to double their natural gas capabilities in the next 15 years. The regulatory commission denied the proposal, and asked APS to create plans that involve more renewable energy.

The decision was especially surprising given that, unlike some other states, Arizona has no political mandate to reduce emissions from electricity generation. The move signals a potential shift in the Arizona energy landscape, which has traditionally been characterized by utilities getting their way with little pushback from regulators. With gas plants now suddenly out of favor, solar energy could play an even bigger role in Arizona’s energy future as part an overall shift towards renewables.

Maui College looks to be 100% powered by solar in 2019

With a combination of battery storage and on-site solar, the University of Hawaii’s Maui College is making a play for the title of the first 100% renewable American college campus. The college will turn on a campus-wide solar array paired with battery storage in 2019, which will allow the school to generate all of the energy it needs from the sun. Designed by the tech and energy company Johnson Controls, the solar energy system will save Maui College about $78 million over its lifetime.

This ambitious project began back in 2010, when Johnson Controls began conducting energy audits of the campus and putting energy efficiency measures in place. Following this first phase, they began solar panel installations on canopies and rooftop arrays around campus, and began pairing the panels with batteries to create a system capable of powering the entire school.

Beyond the long-term savings, the new energy system will provide a unique educational opportunity for students and faculty alike. The University of Hawaii plans on providing curriculum, an internship program, and workshops for members of the school community to give individuals the chance to explore solar energy through a personal case study lens. With this project, Maui College is the latest in a long list of schools, municipalities, corporations, and nonprofits advancing our clean energy future.

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