BP converts Tucson convenience store to solar energy

TUCSON, Ariz., Nov. 20, 2000 (PRNewswire) — A "real world" application of solar energy will provide approximately 10 percent of the electricity required to operate a Tucson, BP owned ARCO AMPM convenience store, giving Arizona its first, much-anticipated retail business use of the technology.

Conversion of the AMPM to the use of solar power is part of BP Solar's worldwide "Plug In The Sun" project demonstrating every-day applications of solar technology. The convenience store, located at 2790 W. Ruthrauff Road, has been retrofitted with an array of 168 BP Solar polycrystalline solar modules mounted atop the pump island canopy to provide electrical power directly to the facility.

Tucson Electric Power will continue to provide the store with the bulk of its electrical needs but the new solar project will generate up to 17 kilowatts of usable electricity during peak sun hours, enough to light the inside of the store and operate some equipment, or the equivalent of satisfying all the electrical needs of five typical Tucson homes.

In conjunction with the conversion, state and local officials, civic leaders and environmentalists joined with BP today in celebrating the official re-opening of the solar powered facility in a brief ceremony.

"BP is committed to providing energy sources that help reduce emissions while continuing to provide the fuels that will ensure future mobility for everyone," said Chris Noble, BP's West Coast business unit leader for retail marketing. "The solar conversion at this store is evidence that clean energy business needs can be met economically while also helping to reduce environmental impact."

The Tucson solar equipped facility is one of 20 BP has converted in the US. Others are located in Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, and in Olney, Maryland. Worldwide, BP has 200 solar energy service stations in operation.

"Solar energy is unique among sustainable resource technologies in being 'all green,"' said Harry Shimp, chief executive officer for BP Solar. "Here in Tucson, BP is really demonstrating its commitment to reducing global emissions."

The company has also introduced a variety of cleaner burning fuels in cities around the world, including a new low sulfur diesel fuel in California that will, hopefully, be available in Arizona in the near future. In addition, BP announced a goal of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases 10 percent (based on 1990 emissions) from its own operations by 2010.

"We are excited and encouraged to see BP's leadership in bringing solar energy technology to life in a retail business environment," said Arizona State Representative Barry Wong. "Their efforts complement the state's commitment to bringing clean renewable energy resources to Arizona, and we look forward to working with BP and the industry in bringing that to fruition."

"Solar and renewable forms of energy are clearly the wave of the future," said Brad Ack, program director for Grand Canyon Trust. "But this project reminds us that the future is now — there are many solar/renewable applications that are the best alternatives today. This project will demonstrate how business and the environment can both benefit from clean energy. We applaud BP for its growing commitment to look beyond fossil fuel energy sources and provide leadership towards the clean energy sources that the planet so desperately needs."

Practical application of solar energy isn't new to BP, however. The Athlete Village at this year's Summer Olympic Games in Sydney was equipped with more than 630 BP solar electric power systems mounted on the roofs of the units. The solar modules generated renewable electrical energy throughout the 15-days of the Games at a daily rate equating to a projected average of 1,000 megawatts a year. Following the Games, the units were converted to public housing, guaranteeing long-term energy efficient living for its residence and creating one of the world's largest developments utilizing solar electric power.

"Although BP has operations around the world, it is our presence in communities like Tucson where we must make an immediate difference," Noble said. "Our success will ultimately be measured by how well we connect with our customers. Projects like this that combine solar electric innovations at our facilities will hopefully draw support from our customers and be seen as a step in the right direction."

To assist customers in visualizing the impact of the solar energy project on the ampm's electrical usage, BP will place a "larger-than-life" voltage meter, near the entrance, measuring and symbolizing the real-time kilowatts being generated from the solar canopy.

The conversion of sunlight into electricity is called photovoltaic technology and is vastly different than used to heat water, a solar application that is more familiar. The photovoltaic solar modules, which are essentially maintenance free and last more than 30 years, are made-up of individual self-contained cells and have no moving parts. Each cell contains layers of semiconductors that allow electrons to be released when exposed to sunlight producing an electrical current. The greater the number of modules, the more watts of electricity generated.

To utilize solar energy systems in everyday applications like BP's ampm facility, the energy generated, which is a standard direct (DC) current, must be inverted to an alternating (AC) current. Unlike many other solar applications, BP will use the electricity immediately, instead of storing it in a battery or sending it on to a local utility grid. This will enable the store to have supplemental AC current, consequently reducing its demand for utility-supplied power and helping lower electrical costs.

The BP Solar modules are silicon based and can withstand weather extremes from arctic cold to desert heat, one-inch hail at about 50 mph, and winds in excess of 125 mph.

According to BP, the cost of converting the Tucson site to supplemental solar electricity was approximately $130,000.

BP (NYSE: BP - news) is a global energy company with operations in 100 countries on six continents. BP purchased ARCO earlier this year, although BP plans to keep the well-recognized ARCO and ampm brands for the foreseeable future. BP is among the top three energy companies in the world.

BP Solar is a unit of BP with a global market share of 20 percent and annual revenues of more than $180 million. BP Solar is at the forefront of international solar electric industry and is the largest manufacturer of solar electric modules and systems.

SOURCE: BP

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