By Barbara Kessler

Some things just make sense, like the Phoenix Suns using the desert sun to help power the US Airways Center where they play.

The basketball team, electricity provider APS and the city of Phoenix announced Thursday that the utility and the team have teamed up to install a 194 kilowatt photo-voltaic system on the fifth level of the US Airways parking garage. The system will cover about 18,000 square feet and produce more than 330,000 kilowatt-hours each year – enough to meet about one-quarter of the Casino Arizona Pavilion’s power needs. The  Pavilion encompasses the 50-high glassy grand entrance to the arena; its escalators, ticket windows and the Starbucks.

By replacing power from conventional fossil fuels, the solar installation should save the city about 144,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of about 440,000 car miles driven.

Everyone seemed pretty happy about the project, which will be designed by El Solutions Inc., and financed and operated by Tioga Energy, providing those companies and APS not only a strong business deal, but a chance to showcase the power of solar at a venue that draws more than 2 million visitors to basketball and hockey games, concerts and ice shows.

“We want to make Arizona the solar capital of the world, and clean, solar energy will play a vital role in Arizona’s energy future,” said APS CEO Don Brandt. “We got involved in this project because solar installations at large businesses make a tangible difference. Not only do they benefit the environment and the community, but they can also make good business sense.”

“Our goal for Phoenix is to become the first sustainable city of the 21st Century,” chimed in Mayor Phil Gordon, in a statement. “With this project, we have taken another step toward a sustainable Downtown, powered by renewable energy sources. Thanks to the Suns and APS, the US Airways Center solar project joins other large installations, such as the one at the Phoenix Convention Center, in reducing the city’s carbon footprint.”

The Suns in-house environmentalist, point guard (and two time NBA MVP) Steve Nash also helped make the announcement, noting: “To live in the Valley of the Sun and have such an abundance of that resource, I feel it’s time to take advantage and be active. Having a solar system like this installed right here in the arena is something I’m extremely proud of.”

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