A power plant along Interstate 10 in Tucson is dismantling a massive old fuel-oil storage tank to make room for solar-thermal technology.

The move at Tucson Electric Power Co. could be seen as a symbol of the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but it's really a lesson in how the two can work together.

The Arizona Daily Star reports ( that the fuel-storage tank, which is no longer in use, is being dismantled at Tucson Electric's H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station to make room for a proposed project with French energy giant Areva Solar.

The companies haven't widely publicized the project since they're still working to finalize a deal, but Tucson Electric described the 5-megawatt project as part of its renewable energy build-out plan for 2012, approved by the Arizona Corporation Commission last week.

The company got the go-ahead to proceed with the $7.8 million project, though it was unable to gain approval for upfront funding.

In comments before the Corporation Commission last week, John Robbins of Areva Solar said the company's system is one of the most cost-effective solar technologies for large-scale generation, cutting the use of thousands of tons of coal and reducing related greenhouse gases.

He said the technology can be installed on existing steam plants for $1.60 to $1.70 per watt. By comparison, rooftop solar photovoltaic installations are running about $4 to $5 per installed watt.

"Arizona has a very unique opportunity, with the coal generation you have, to take advantage of solar steam augmentation," Robbins said.

Carmine Tilghman, Tucson Electric's director of renewable energy resources, said the use of Areva's technology at the Sundt plant is a good deal for the company and ratepayers.

He said that under the current proposal, Areva would build the plant in the next year and operate it for a year at no cost to Tucson Electric.


Information from: Arizona Daily Star,