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ASU hosts third Arizona Solar Summit

October 11, 2012

Earlier this week, ASU SkySong, in conjunction with ASU Lightworks and ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, hosted Arizona Solar Summit III: Game Changers. The summit focused on highlighting the game-changing efforts of Arizona’s statewide solar industry.

More than 250 people throughout Arizona participated in Summit III, which began Oct. 5 with a pre-summit tour of Tucson’s top solar sites and projects and culminated with a two-day event hosted at ASU SkySong.

On the first day of Summit III at SkySong, solar leaders and industry participants had the opportunity to tour game-changing projects and solar sites throughout the Valley, providing a chance for Arizona to showcase why it is one of the most progressive states in America when it comes to solar innovation. Site visits were designed to educate the community on the importance of Arizona’s solar projects for economic development and job growth and included the following tours:

• A pre-summit tour in Tucson showcasing the Solar Zone and other projects in the southern portion of Arizona.

• A Phoenix visit highlighting top of the line green and sustainable practices in the Valley’s construction industry. The Phoenix visit included stops at DPR Construction, APS’s solar installation at Chase Field and Shea Homes.

• A tour of ASU’s impressive solar projects and efforts, including a tour of the PowerParasol™ (a 5.25 acre solar installation with a 2.124 MB capacity), a stop at Decision Theater for a demonstration of Arizona’s Solar Market and Research Tool and an update on plans for the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives.

• A visit to Gila Bend to see the trailblazing work being done within Gila Bend’s Solar Field Overlay Zone, with stops at numerous solar and photovoltaic plants in the area, including the largest U.S. solar power plant to store energy.

• A tour of the East Valley, including Eastmark, Mesa’s first sustainable mixed-use community that will be a hub for families, jobs, education and commerce. This visit showcased the work that has been done since Eastmark broke ground on May 18 as well as showing off the plans for the full development of Eastmark and the surrounding Mesa-Gateway area. The next stop was a tour of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at ASU’s Polytechnic campus where visitors heard about how ASU is leveraging the power of the sun to address energy challenges.

Once attendees returned to SkySong from their site visits, they participated in a dinner reception under SkySong’s iconic shade structure. This unique celebration featured the launch of a new, innovative solar charging station from Monarch Power, as well as a sustainable car show featuring the latest in alternative fuel vehicles. Participants were also able to meet a number of local sustainable startups.

On day two attendees engaged solar industry leaders, Valley mayors and top women of solar in discussions about the efforts throughout the state to propel Arizona to global leadership in solar. The overall tone the panels, presentation and discussions was that solar is crucial for Arizona’s economic future and that political affiliations should be secondary to working collaboratively toward developing an even brighter solar future for Arizona.

When asked “What we as a community can do to promote solar?” the panelists agreed that participating in the conversation through voting was most important. They also agreed that solar must become more “mainstream” in the lives of all Arizonans. This was most evident in the Mayoral and the Women Changing the Solar Game panels.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith wants solar to be the “norm” for Arizona. “Right now when we put solar panels on a building it’s a big deal,” Smith said during a panel discussion Wednesday with three other mayors. “We don’t want it to be a big deal; we want it to be a normal, everyday thing.”

Mayor Greg Stanton of the City of Phoenix echoed Mayor Smith’s sentiments. “My governing philosophy on this is sustainability thinking has to permeate every decision that we make at the city,” he said. “That’s the kind of leadership I want to provide for the City of Phoenix.”

Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president with the ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, moderated the mayoral panel discussion which included Mayor Greg Stanton of City of Phoenix, Mayor Scott Smith of City of Mesa, Mayor Doug Von Gausig of Town of Clarkdale, and Mayor Georgia Lord of City of Goodyear. In his final remarks, he echoed the sentiments of the Mayors and their views on Arizona’s solar future.  

“Arizona has the vision, leadership and commitment to become the solar capital of the world,” he said. "I have no doubt that we will advance very well in this area with the intellectual investments of universities, collaborative work of industry and entrepreneurs, and the support of all cities and community leaders.”

During her panel discussion, Leisa Brug, director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, advocated that solar education should be provided for all elected officials, hoping to combat misconceptions that solar is too expensive and not a viable technology.

Day two also featured a special announcement from Greener Capital that will have a direct impact on creating more business and jobs in Arizona’s sustainable building industry. Greener Capital was founded in 2009 as a venture firm that funds early-stage “green” startups. In partnership with Arizona Technology Enterprises and ASU’s Venture Catalyst, Greener Capital will launch a “GreenBuild Challenge” in first quarter of 2013. 

“This challenge will be a competition for new startups in the sustainable and green building spaces to be invited into an accelerator where they will have an opportunity to test their technologies and products in one of ASU’s newest buildings,” said Charlie Lewis, vice president for Venture Development at AzTE. More information on this exciting new initiative will be revealed as the competition launch gets closer.

While Summit III has ended, the work of the Arizona Solar Summit team has not. The four working groups that were formed out of the first summit will continue their efforts in the areas of Supply Chain, Building Arizona’s Solar Narrative, Policy and Finance, and Research and Development. The working groups are critical to the success of furthering Arizona’s solar future. Members of the solar community are encouraged to visit to stay engaged with the working groups and to see latest updates on Summit IV.