The Hualapai Tribe in Northern Arizona partnered with Tucson-based SOLON Corp. to develop, design and construct a new solar energy project and battery energy system (BESS) near the visitor center at Grand Canyon West.
Recently the Hualapai Tribe celebrated the project with a groundbreaking ceremony attended by members of the Tribal Council, the tribe’s project management team, and representatives of SOLON Corp. The project will be built in phases, and it is expected the Solar and BESS will be fully operational in Q2, 2023.
“We’re excited to build a project that supports the local microgrid, which will significantly reduce the tribe’s use of diesel generators and provide clean energy to power the Grand Canyon West Visitor Center and Skywalk. The tribe has been a great Arizona partner to work with; it’s not every day that you get to help support one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” said Brian Seibel, SOLON Corp. president.
The solar system is comprised of 884.52 kWdc of fixed-tilt ground-mounted solar that will cover approximately 42,677 square feet and include 1,638 solar modules; it will produce more than 1,800 MWh/year of clean, renewable energy. The solar system is combined with a 770 kW, 2,145 kWh battery energy storage system (BESS).
The Solar and BESS will be a significant benefit to the tribe in terms of cost and environmental benefits. The project entails converting an existing microgrid solely powered by diesel generators to one powered primarily by Solar and BESS. The BESS will serve as the grid-forming source, greatly reducing operational costs and increasing reliability of the microgrid. Generator use will be limited and only used as a backup power source or if needed to charge batteries overnight, although typically excess solar will be used during the daytime to charge the batteries.
Planning for the future was a crucial component in the development of this project. The local utility may provide power to the area in the future, so it was essential that the microgrid be optimally designed for today’s needs, while planning for a future grid connection to the system.