Renewable & Natural Resources
While Southern Arizona is already well known for its abundant sunshine, the region is also becoming known for its abundant human capital, state of the art research and development, ample supply chain opportunities and competitive operating costs. This translates into opportunity – from sunrise to sunset – for any company wanting to take advantage of the region’s unique assets.
Recognized globally as a location of choice for solar energy activities, Southern Arizona's emerging solar industry promises a bright future. The region has valuable resources for technology development, manufacturing and solar power generation.
The University of Arizona Science & Technology Park is a 1,345 acre site with nearly 2 million square feet of office, engineering and laboratory space developed. Tech Parks Arizona is focused on developing innovation hubs that unite industry and research to advance leading-edge technology. One of the key initiatives underway is the Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park. The Solar Zone is one of the largest multi-technology solar testing and evaluation sites in the United States.
Phase one of the Solar Zone is an innovative strategic partnership between The University of Arizona and Tucson Electric Power. All solar power generated in the Solar Zone is used by Tucson Electric Power to expand its renewable energy resources in Southern Arizona. The power generated is from eight companies using different solar technologies producing a total of 23 MW of power.
Power generation and distribution are only one component of the Solar Zone. Equally important is research and development. The Solar Zone is designed to provide university and industry researchers with the ability the evaluate various technologies as they perform side by side, under identical operating conditions, so developers may determine when systems are most efficient and economical for the company and Southern Arizona. University of Arizona researchers are testing everything from solar power forecasting to the environmental impact of solar energy installations.
The Solar Zone continues to evolve. It is a unique and compelling location for solar energy development. Building on the research strengths of The University of Arizona, following the innovative lead of Tucson Electric Power and using the land and research facilities at the UA Tech Park, the Solar Zone can position Southern Arizona to be at the leading edge of solar energy innovation and development in the world.
Copper mining has been a major industry for Arizona since the 19th century. Sixty percent of the nation’s copper comes from Southern Arizona. The copper mined in the region is sold principally outside of the state, bringing money into our economy. Jobs in the mining industry produce higher wages than service sector jobs.
Much of the nation’s mining technology research is done in Tucson in association with The University of Arizona. The University of Arizona Department of Mining and Geological Engineering offers a BS in Mining Engineering. There are several tracks for this degree, such as sustainable resource development, mine operations, geomechanics and geological engineering.
The Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources provides students with real-world experience with new technologies, including safety and advanced problem-solving.
Supply Chain Opportunities
Southern Arizona continues to attract solar system component manufacturing companies, supporting a wide range of solar industry needs, from research and development to the manufacturing of mounting systems and solar modules. This industry presence brings together potential partners to share labor force skills, technology transfer, industry knowledge and additional business activities.
World-class solar industry companies such as Solon Corp., Schletter, Inc., and Hanergy-Global Solar have chosen to develop operations in the Tucson area, taking advantage of the region’s proximity to vendors, suppliers and major consumer markets throughout the Southwest and Western United States.
Much of Tucson’s highly-skilled workforce is a product of targeted education programs at The University of Arizona and Pima Community College. These institutions offer tech-transfer opportunities and direct access to highly-skilled graduates.
The University of Arizona, one of the nation’s top 20 public research institutions, features world-class research in many diverse fields including engineering, environmental science and alternative energy. With an enrollment of over 40,000 students, many involved in ongoing research, the university provides a stream of experienced and skilled bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral graduates.
Pima Community College is the eighth largest multi-campus community college in the country, with an annual enrollment of more than 45,000 students. The college plays an important role in economic development, contracting to provide customized training for more than 50 regional employers.
With strong local support and an ideal climate, the Tucson region is emerging as a location of choice for many companies in the alternative energy and natural resources industry. Currently there are about 35 established solar companies in the region, providing a range of services including manufacturing, installation, distribution, etc. Several solar manufacturers have recently made headlines in Tucson as they announced plans to locate or expand in the region. There are about 24 mining companies throughout Tucson & Southern Arizona employing approximately 8,500 people.