After two years of advocacy, Colorado will soon be getting more clean energy from wind and solar. On October 21, the long hours at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) paid off when the Commission approved Black Hills Energy’s plans to build a new wind project and expand community solar programs near Pueblo, Colorado.
Black Hills Energy is an electric and gas utility serving Pueblo and other southern Colorado communities. Black Hills Energy customers will now benefit from improved air quality, reduced water usage, reduced health impacts, and the financial savings this wind energy will provide. The expanded community solar program supports broader solar access, including for more low-income customers.
Low Cost Wind Project Benefits Environment and Consumer Pocket Books
The 60 megawatt (MW) Peak View Wind project will be built in Huerfano and Las Animas counties. The project allows Black Hills Energy to reduce the amount of natural gas it burns, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about $2.4 million tons. This will help Colorado achieve compliance with the new federal Clean Power Plan that will significantly reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, in the first 20 years of Peak View Wind’s operation, customers are expected to save over $37 million. The wind farm is targeted to begin operating in November 2016.
Community Solar Project Expanded and Increasing Low-Income Access to Solar Power
In addition to the new wind project, the Colorado PUC also approved a settlement where Black Hills Energy, Western Resource Advocates, the Office of Consumer Counsel and other parties agreed for the utility to acquire 2.5 MW of new community solar projects in both 2015 and 2016 (5 MW over 2 years), plus 1.15 MW of rooftop solar annually. Together, these new solar projects can power about 1,600 homes each year. A community solar project is where a solar developer installs solar panels at a site and then businesses and residents subscribe to have that energy credited to their bill.
Western Resource Advocates proposed features to increase low-income solar access, and these features are included in the approved program design. These features assist developers in building projects to serve low-income customers and encourage developers to compete not only on the cost of their solar project, but also on the number of low-income customers they will serve.
Solar energy emits no carbon or other air pollution and requires no water to operate.