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Professor Tim James of ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business explains how the Arizona Solar Market Analysis and Research Tool, or Az SMART, will help people determine the best locations for solar power plants and other renewable energy projects.

Ted Simons: Engineers and economists from two Arizona universities have developed an analysis tool to better inform anyone from homeowners to policymakers on decisions regarding renewable energy projects. The Arizona solar market analysis and research tool, or A-Z smart, will provide people with web tools to weigh a variety of factors in determining the best site for a solar power plant or other renewable energy project. Here to tell us more about A-Z Smart is ASU economist Tim James. Thanks for joining us.

Tim James: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: How did this come about?

Tim James: It's a generously funded project that science foundation Arizona, APS, SRP, TEP and lots of solar entities have come together in a partnership to fund -- provide the state with a set of tools so it can best develop its solar potential.

Ted Simons: The overall idea, figure out the best bang for the buck?

Tim James: Exactly, one of the things we're doing, which is innovative and we've been told that by people who today come and look at the tool as it currently is, it's the only one in the United States that tries to integrate the technology aspect of solar development with a commercial economic development. Put those things together in a integrated way so you can make decisions where we would get most money by pulling policy levers to figure out the most effective way.,

Ted Simons: and that would include where best it put a solar plant? Certain parts of the state make more sense than others?

Tim James: They do. One of the modules we have is a siting module which looks at GAS layers. The GAS layers, whether you're located near a transmission line, which is important thing. And looks at whether you're close to water resources, if you need those and all of those are part of the process that we use to determine whether would be best place to locate solar installations and how we spend money wisely to get new entities into the state.

Ted Simons: Spending money wisely, a big factor. Tax credit, incentive, permits also factor in is this?

Tim James: We can look at net metering which was Successful in terms of getting people to invest in solar in Spain and Germany, which are the two current leaders in distributive solar power in the world and they're the same level of advantage that we do in the state. In terms of solar installation. And we think that policymakers and people interested in economic development can use as a way of getting people to come here and locate here and build up our solar opportunities. Thereby creating a really dynamic economy for the state.

Ted Simons: What reaction are you getting?

Tim James: Fantastic reactions. The DOE came and visit and heard it was the only tool in existence that does integrative decision making and today, people from the department of commerce come along and say whether they could use an economic development advocacy tool so that people can figure out whether it would be a good entity to invest in. We've got like scientists, engineers, economists, everyone just trying to find out, again, where this all makes the best economic sense. Where it makes the best technical, economic and siting sense. It's all wrapped together. There are trade-offs here. If you have a high level of solar installation and you get the most capture of the sun's energy, that may be well away from where the load growth is, the demand for power, so you have to take into those things and think about whether you've got export potential located nearby. If we're truly going to become the Saudi Arabia, it could be our real export growth industry.

Ted Simons: Give us a better sense how those scenarios -- there's literally something tangible you can look at and plot out?

Tim James: Yeah, the thing that's innovative here, we're using something called decision theater, which is part of ASU, as a way of presenting this decision tool. Which is a state-of-the-art, seven-screen room you can go in and play around with the scenarios and they're integrated and tells you in summary what the results, the location, the policy levers, you pulled.

Ted Simons: Interesting, sounds like this is a boom for big business and those with big plans to make big power plants. What about me, the homeowner, I'd like information as well. Can I get it from the website?

Tim James: Ultimately, we'll have a website tailored to the different audiences and one is going to be householder, so a householder can go on to the website and get independent advice what makes sense it them. Whether solar power makes sense, what the cost would be and what they would be doing in terms of contributing to the reduction in emission, greenhouse gas, in a small way, but to show them as an individual what they can do to help the planet.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Sounds good. Sounds like -- will we finally get to where solar energy is cost-effective, to the point where it silences its critics?

Tim James: Solar energy will become cost-effective one day. The question is when. We think the date at which solar energy becomes cost competitive is approaching faster than we thought it was going to be. Because the cost of installation is coming down rapidly.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Thanks for joining.

Tim James:Professor, ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business;

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