An RV park in Tucson is going solar in a big way.
It's considered a win all around, especially for Tucson and its economic development. Kampgrounds of America (KOA) officials said it is also a first, a uniquely designed solar array that is the only one of its kind at a recreational facility in the nation.
It is two acres of 28-feet-high solar arrays that provide shade for 30 recreational vehicles. The solar array design comes from a Chandler, AZ, company. It is considered a plus for KOA because it saves energy and power costs.
It's also a plus for the city that depends heavily on tourism dollars, and a plus for the campers themselves.
"Elements of the design that allow dappled light - we call dappled light - filtered light to come through, create patterns of light to come through, allowing you to grow trees, plants, flowers. The elevated structure doesn't block the view of the horizon," said Bob Boscamp, president of Strategic Solar Energy that designed and patented the solar system at the KOA park.
KOA President Pat Hittmeier said the project cost the company about $4 million.
He said there were federal and state incentives and a great deal of cooperation and encouragement from Tucson Electric Power.
Hittmeier said it makes sense for his company.
"It makes sense from the standpoint of a greater camping experience, extending our season and also the offset of power costs associated with generation in this particular park," Hittmeier said.
"In Tucson we're big promoters of solar energy. We believe in it, first of all, because it promotes conservation and saves natural resources, but also we've found it to be great for economic development. The companies that use solar, that use these kind of resources save money. They contribute electricity back to the grid for the rest of us. And so we want to encourage that," Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said.
It is expected recreational vehicle users might want to spend a bit more time in Tucson, and not just during the winter months.
"We know this park is going to fill up, with or without this array between December and February. But with this they could very well extend their season November through April, and then in the summer people will come here that might not otherwise because they can have a shaded place where their energy is saved," Rothschild said.
RV camper Rita Hodgdon of Kansas City, KS said, "I would stay here longer knowing that I could get a site that would have a little more shade in those extremely hot months that it's in the hundreds here."
Other campers were just as enthusiastic.
"I think it's awesome. What a great improvement to the KOA park and not only to provide shade for the RVers, but also to generate all that power," Dusty Brown of Pueblo, CO, said.
"I think it's incredible. The more I've heard about it, it's really awesome. I mean it's going to generate a lot of power and give people shade when it's really hot here," Trish McKernan of Boise, ID, said.
With the winter months coming, the park does not expect a lot of interest in the shaded areas yet, but with the solar array producing up to one megawatt of energy, the cost savings are expected to add up and the company expects to be able to contribute energy back to the grid.
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