ark Twain is credited with having said some variation of “Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over.”
There’s plenty of fight in the Greater Phoenix economy thanks to decades of planning and execution by Salt River Project (SRP), the electric power and water utility serving central Arizona for the past 120 years. But the battles are kept to a minimum. A watershed entirely within your home state doesn’t hurt.
“SRP is all interior to Arizona,” says Salt River Project Chief Water Executive and Associate GM of Water Resources Leslie Meyers. “It’s still a Bureau of Reclamation project, but we have one project, one owner, and a multitude of folks we contract with and provide water to.”
SRP Chief Water Executive and Associate General Manager of Water Resources
On the March day I spoke with Meyers, snowflakes were falling in northern Arizona. They joined a huge snowpack that, combined with late-winter storms, had driven SRP to conduct several dam releases from the system it manages.
“We are still in the throes of a drought,” cautions Meyers, whose more than 30 years of water resources management experience include a long stint at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. But she admits it’s been a “really productive year in Arizona.”
Keeping one of the fastest growing regions in the nation productive has been part of SRP’s mission since its founding, when Phoenix first took root sustained by canals along routes first dug by the Huhugam centuries ago. Now those canals, reservoirs and power systems serve millions of people and a host of water-consuming business operations such as data centers and major semiconductor plants worth billions of dollars.
“SRP delivers raw water to all of those folks and more,” Meyers says, noting that area cities work directly with companies and maintain diverse portfolios in order to assure reliable supply. “There is some SRP water, some groundwater, some Central Arizona Project water,” she says, citing the importance of the 336-mile Central Arizona Project (CAP) system that took 20 years to build, cost $4 billion and now serves 6 million people with Colorado River Water. “Arizona has done a fantastic job,” she says, with the combined resources of SRP and the CAP system “allowing Phoenix to become the fifth fastest growing place in the country.”
More water storage capacity is on the way. One of several dam and storage projects in the works is the Salt River Project Central Arizona Project Interconnect Facility — SCIF for short — “to take SRP water off project and help support other communities,” Meyers says.
Aligned With Customers, Positioned for Tomorrow
That’s not to be confused with the High-Tech Interconnection Project (HIP), a new electrical power investment involving a new 230-kV substation on Intel’s campus, as well as new 230-kV transmission lines connecting the campus to two existing substations. Construction began in January 2022 on the project, precipitated by Intel’s $20 billion expansion of its Chandler campus.
It’s one of many examples of SRP projects serving companies’ twin goals of growth and sustainability. In 2020, for example, the East Line Solar Plant began delivering clean energy to Intel via SRP’s Sustainable Energy Offering, which allows business customers the opportunity to receive and invest in large-scale clean energy, work toward their sustainability goals and share the economic benefits of a utility-scale, renewable energy resource.
“SRP’s own carbon reduction targets and renewable energy agreements to help customers meet their own sustainability goals are of increasing importance to both existing and prospective customers,” says SRP Director of Corporate Strategy, Sustainability, and Economic Services Tom Cooper. Various solar projects have provided the renewable energy supply behind SRP’s Sustainable Energy Offering and other agreements for such organizations as Air Products, Meta, Apple, Arizona State University, Walmart, Digital Realty, Lumen Technologies, PepsiCo, Target, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
SRP Director of Corporate Strategy, Sustainability and Economic Services
Cooper says extensive engineering studies identifying required system upgrades, costs and timelines and a transparent Integrated System Planning process allow SRP to provide a high degree of certainty and reassurance that customers will have the power they need, when they need it, especially in a time of such uncertainty and energy transition. New federal legislation will help address those challenges too.
“To date, SRP has contracted for renewable and energy storage projects through power purchase agreements with companies who could access tax credits for those projects,” explains SRP Director of Resource Planning, Development and Acquisition Grant Smedley. “The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act allows not-for-profit public power utilities like SRP to directly receive federal incentive payments for renewable and energy storage projects. This facilitates SRP’s ability to develop, own, and operate renewable and energy storage resources, which has the potential to reduce costs for SRP customers and provides SRP with more direct operational control over these resources,” including a new 55-megawatt (MW) utility-scale advanced solar generation facility that will be built at an SRP energy facility in Florence, Arizona. “This will be the first solar resource in SRP’s portfolio that we will self-develop, own and operate,” Smedley says.
SRP’s long-term outlook befits a company that’s had the long term in mind from the outset. The utility is investing in a diverse mix of resources that includes solar, flexible natural gas, wind, biomass, demand response, energy efficiency, battery storage and long-duration pumped hydro energy storage on the Salt River. SRP also is part of the Southwest Clean Hydrogen Innovation Network (SHINe), which has recently been encouraged by the U.S. Department of Energy to submit a proposal for the development of a clean hydrogen hub in the Desert Southwest.
“SHINe is uniquely positioned for a successful hydrogen hub due to a combination of regional factors and the strength of the partnership team,” says SRP Manager of Innovation and Development Chico Hunter of a team that numbers over 40 organizations in Arizona and Nevada. “These include high-traffic transportation corridors for movement of goods from West Coast shipping ports, heavy-duty vehicle applications in mining, multiple locations with geology suitable for large scale underground hydrogen storage and a strong team that includes the major utilities, universities and world-class industrial partners.”
In other words, the factors important for a hydrogen hub are the same factors that have helped the Central Arizona economy keep humming with sustainable growth. SRP plans to hum along.
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Salt River Project. For more information, go to PowertogrowPHX.com.
Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.