Funded by a three-year, $2.25 million grant from Science Foundation Arizona and matching funds from Arizona Public Service, the Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power, and other groups, the Arizona Solar Market Analysis and Research Tool (AzSMART) enables energy producers to evaluate the potential of a location for utility-scale solar power generation and examine what the impact on that location would be. The tool, which has been under development for the past year, includes data on all potential solar technologies, from concentrated solar power to solar thermal towers and dish technology, as well as the challenges inherent in the intermittent nature of solar power, including transmission lines that are costly to install. The tool also takes into account environmental concerns and examines the slope of land and potential water issues.
Currently, AzSMART is available only to funding partners, but eventually it will be made available to policy makers and the general public via a Web-based application. The grant from Science Foundation Arizona is part of SFA's seven-part plan to support the development of solar initiatives in the state.
"[AzSMART] is kind of a unified theory of all things solar," said Tim James, who is helping coordinate the tool as director of research and consulting at the L. William Seidman Research Institute at ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business. "When you start looking at it, Arizona has a fantastic potential when you're talking about utility-scale generation, but it has not tapped that potential."