Arizona's Energy Mix: Environmental Realities

Sabrina Lopez
June 13, 2017
2 min read

[Originally published on June 13, 2017, | Updated on January 24, 2024 - 3 min read]

Arizona's Energy Mix: Environmental Realities

Introduction: Going solar is often driven by a commitment to the environment. The choice seems obvious in Arizona, a state blessed with abundant sunshine. However, understanding the state's current energy mix is crucial in appreciating the environmental impact of individual solar energy systems. Here are five insightful facts about Arizona's energy landscape.

1. Dominance of Non-Renewable Energy: Despite over 300 sunny days a year, Arizona surprisingly sources over 90% of its electricity from non-renewable resources. Coal contributes 38%, natural gas 24%, and nuclear power 29%. A significant amount of coal is imported, adding transportation emissions to the environmental toll (Source: Southwest Energy Efficiency Project).

2. Hydroelectric Power Leads Renewable Energy: Contrary to expectations, Arizona's primary renewable energy source isn’t solar but hydroelectric power, contributing 9.5% to the state's energy portfolio. Major contributors include Glen Canyon and Hoover Dam (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration).

3. Home to the Largest U.S. Nuclear Plant: The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, with a net capacity of 3,937 megawatts, is the nation’s largest electricity generator. Unique for its location away from large water bodies, it innovatively uses treated wastewater for cooling (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration).

4. The Electric Vehicle Paradox: The environmental benefits are diluted for electric vehicle owners without solar. With over 60% of Arizona's electricity generated from fossil fuels, charging an EV from the grid often means shifting emissions from petrol to coal and gas. Optimal green charging involves using solar energy or charging during off-peak hours when greener energy sources like hydroelectric power are more prevalent.

5. Limited Solar Penetration: Despite ideal solar conditions, Arizona's rooftop solar penetration is only around 5%, outpacing the national average but still modest given the state’s solar potential. This gap highlights the opportunity for significant environmental improvement through solar adoption, encouraged by tax incentives reducing solar installation costs by over 30%.

Conclusion: Arizona's energy mix presents a complex picture. While the state benefits from a rich solar resource, its reliance on non-renewable energy sources is substantial. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for residents considering solar power for cost savings and a step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy future.

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