TEP is proposing modernizing the Sundt Generating Station by replacing two 1950's era steam units with ten natural gas fired combustion engines. The purpose of the new engines is to ramp up more quickly and to balance the variability associated with solar and wind energy generation. But all that ramping spouts more pollution into the air than the current steam units.
TEP claims that these units are part of a larger goal for 30% renewable energy by 2030, but gas fired engines should not be equated with clean, renewable power from wind and solar. The RICE units are fossil-fuel based generating units that would create significant greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, the project expects to cause an increase in emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter (fine particles PM2.5 and coarse particles PM10) and volatile organic compounds.
TEP needs to stop promoting the idea of "clean gas." Just stop. It reeks of Big Oil rhetoric! Burning fossil fuel still emits about 60 percent as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide as coal. Fracking for gas releases vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 80 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide pollution. Gas extraction harms wildlife, disrupts ecosystems, and has been proven to contaminate water and even cause earthquakes throughout the U.S.
Neighborhoods in southeast Tucson have suffered from decades of coal and gas pollution from the Sundt plant. Pollution from the Irvington Campus has had negative health effects for generations. Now TEP is proposing a plant that will emit hazardous air pollutants that are harmful to our health, including benzene, fluorene, naphthalene, and toluene. This proposal will cause a net increase in pollution from particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and sulfur hexafluoride.
And none of this is necessary! Utility-scale battery storage can provide the fast acting support that TEP needs to incorporate intermittent renewables like wind and solar even faster than gas units.
TEP claims that the RICE units are the most cost-effective option to incorporate intermittent renewables, but did they even consider clean alternatives to the RICE units? By pairing batteries with solar resources, utilities can use tax credits to reduce their costs. The prices for solar-plus-storage and windplus-storage systems have been plummeting, leading to record-breaking low prices in energy projects in other states. Colorado recently beat a record that Arizona held for the lowest-cost solar-plus-storage project. The median project in Colorado’s energy solicitation was 20% lower than TEP’s NextEra solarplus-storage project.
Sundt Generating Station represents a prime opportunity to choose renewable resources instead of building brand new fossil-fuel reliant projects. We have a great opportunity here! TEP’s service territory sits in one of the richest renewable resource zones in the country. Renewable energy creates far more jobs than fossil fuels. According to the Department of Energy, Arizona’s clean energy and energy efficiency industries already employ nearly 5 times as many people as the fossil fuel industry, and there is much room to grow. So why isn't TEP doing what's best for Tucson's economy and health?
TEP’s target to serve only 30% of its load with renewable energy by 2030 isn't nearly ambitious enough to protect Arizona’s air and water and to limit the impacts of climate change. It's time for our governing officials to demonstrate some strong leadership and do what's right for the people of Tucson and the future of our city.
The time for action is NOW - while we still have this window of opportunity. We can make a difference. Our city council can make a difference with some bold leadership! This is something concrete we can all do to leave a better life for our children in Tucson.
4:15 p.m. Rally at TEP headquarters, 88 E Broadway.
March to the Pima County Public Works office, 201 N. Stone Ave, for…
Those unable to attend may submit written comments. Those who leave comments are qualified to appeal, but the comments must pertain to on how the permit meets the criteria for issuance prescribed in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Section § 49-481 of the Pima County Code.