The first phase of a large solar carport was completed last month at Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, located in Phoenix at 650 E. Indian School Rd.

Built by SunWize Technologies, Inc., the carport is an ambitious undertaking. It is the nation’s largest solar carport, and once all phases are complete will house 40 carport structures and 18,000 solar panels.

The first phase will produce 630 kilowatts, but once the project is complete, the carport will produce up to 4.45 MW of energy.

The project started mid-2010 and the final phase is expected to finish early 2012.

SunWize split the project into different phases to make operations more efficient. In the first phase, the carport structures and the solar panels were constructed on site, but for phase two, SunWize is assembling the unites before transporting them onsite.

“What we doing in the second phase to make it go quicker is we are actually pre-panelizing the panels,” says Matt Ziskin, SunWize’s senior director for marketing.

This will allow SunWize to pass 10% in cost savings to the VA once the carport is complete.

“We started working with the VA a couple years ago,” says Ziskin. “Instead of putting it up them up one panel at a time, we can lift them up and get four at a time.”

Once the entire project is complete, the carport will generate enough to power 700 homes and will take 9.3 million pounds of carbon emissions out of the air annually.

The structure will have the added benefit of providing shade for about 90% of all parking spots at the VA facility.

"SunWize has been a great partner to VA, taking phase one from concept to the operational carport system now providing clean solar energy to the hospital," says James Larson, energy manager at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, in a press release.

This project was one of ten solar projects that the Department of Veteran Affairs awarded SunWize in January 2010.

The contracts include three projects in New York, three in California, one in Wyoming, one in Hawaii and one in the American Samoa.

Before securing these contracts, SunWize completed a solar electric system for the VA at their Dallas Medical Center.