COOLIDGE — A new solar power generating plant with battery storage capability was dedicated Wednesday near Coolidge to serve thousands of Salt River Project electricity customers.

SRP says the Pinal Central Solar Energy Center, at 810 N. Sunshine Blvd., will be operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, a wholesale electricity supplier based in Juno Beach, Florida.

According to SRP, the plant provides 20 megawatts, or enough power for approximately 5,000 homes.

The 257-acre site has 258,000 photovoltaic panels and a 10 megawatt lithium battery storage system.

The commissioning ceremony included speeches, a tour of the facility and a ribbon-cutting. Guest speakers included NextEra Energy Resources Vice President of Renewable Development Matt Handel, SRP President David Rousseau, SRP General Manager and CEO Mike Hummel and Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville.

Solar Plant Dedication

Cutting the ribbon at the commissioning ceremony for the Pinal Central Solar Energy Center, are from left to right: Jackie Elliott, President and CEO of Central Arizona College; Matt Handel, VP of Renewal Development for NextEra Energy Resources; SRP President David Rousseau; Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios; SRP General Manager and CEO Mike Hummel; State Sen. Frank Pratt and Jess Melin, director of Renewable Development for NextEra Energy Resources.

NextEra officials said the plant is unique because it includes a battery energy storage system that will store energy generated by the solar panels and deliver it to the electrical grid when the sun isn’t shining.

They said when the solar project reaches the end of its useful life, it will be dismantled and the land will be returned to agricultural use.

The construction of the plant was not without controversy. Many nearby residents initially opposed its location and the city of Coolidge tried to annex the area in order to have control over its development. The city backed off on the annexation after a petition was started requesting a public vote on the matter, which the city didn’t want to pay for.

The operation of the plant was then approved in September 2017 by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

“Moving ahead, we look forward to partnering with local leaders like Central Arizona College to develop programs that help prepare students for work in the field of sustainable energy,” Jess Melin, a spokesman for NextEra, said last year.

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