A 156 MW solar project just started construction near Pueblo, Colorado, and when it is online early next year it will be the largest single solar project in the state. Not only is the project notable for its size, it was also given the green light by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission because the solar energy would be cheaper over its lifetime than buying energy from natural gas-powered generators. Xcel Energy is buying the energy from the Comanche Solar project for its Colorado customers as an alternative to buying and burning fossil fuels.
The Commission proceeding on Xcel’s Electric Resource Plan, which began in 2011, not only concluded the Comanche Solar project was cheaper than gas, but another 50 MW solar project and two wind projects totaling 450 MW also beat out multiple natural gas-fired electricity bids when compared on price alone. Western Resource Advocates gave sworn testimony on the stand and filed many rounds of written comments and legal briefs in the lengthy Commission proceeding that selected the winning projects. The Commission examined numerous analytical assumptions, modeling rounds, and competitive bids to develop Xcel’s plan for the next several years. The newest wind and solar resources can serve nearly 300,000 households. Together, these new renewable energy projects will avoid nearly 25 million tons of CO2 emissions. They will also bring Xcel Energy’s total for renewable generation on its system to over 3.3 GW, keeping Colorado firmly among the top-10 states for total installed wind and solar capacity.
While getting the largest solar project in Colorado under construction is exciting, it is still smaller than the total amount of rooftop solar that Xcel customers combined have on their homes and businesses. Xcel has about 275 MW of rooftop solar on its system, which together is about 76% larger than the Comanche Solar project. What’s good about that? It means the largest utility in Colorado is getting clean energy from a diverse set of renewable energy resources. Together, they all help Xcel Energy go beyond the state’s Renewable Energy Standard law. And together they will also help the state of Colorado comply with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Most importantly, all this renewable energy is helping reduce carbon pollution addressing climate change and helping us achieve cleaner air.