Monday, July 23, 2018

Springs Utilities to power 30,000 more homes with solar

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 9:25 AM

click to enlarge Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array. - COURTESY OF COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy of Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array.

Colorado Springs Utilities
 recently signed contracts for two solar energy projects totaling 95 megawatts, enough to power 30,000 homes annually. The Palmer Solar Project and Grazing Yak Project will increase the Springs Utilities solar energy production to 130 megawatts when both projects are online by the end of 2020. That will bring the Springs renewable energy portfolio to 15 percent of summer generating capacity.

The 60 megawatts Palmer Solar Project will be built by juwi Inc. of Boulder, and supply Springs Utilities under a 20-year contract. juwi will develop and operate on a 500-acre site on Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District property in El Paso County, north of Monument. The Palmer Solar Project breaks ground in the first half of 2019 and plans to be online by December 2020.

North America's largest generator of solar and wind power, NextEra Energy Resources, will develop, build and operate the 35 megawatts Grazing Yak Project. That project, beginning in early 2019 and operational by late 2019, will operate under a 25-year contract with Springs Utilities.

Springs Utilities will purchase the energy generated by the new projects for a 20-year fixed rate of less than $31 per megawatt hour. Colorado Springs Utilities spokesperson, Amy Trinidad, tells the Indy the utility does not expect the projects to result in a rate increase from the current $87 per month average electric bill, and any potential increase will not exceed one percent of the current bill.

"We are under guidance from the utilities board that no more than one percent of our customer's residential electric bill can be used for the purchase of renewable energy," says Trinidad. Springs Utilities' Energy Vision's goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 could fall short because of the one percent cap, which the Indy reported on in more detail last December. 

"Well, it's an either/or. It's 20 percent renewables for our generation or we hit that one percent bill impact cap," says Trinidad. Upcoming renewable energy options presented to the Springs Utilities' Board could provide the opportunity to meet that 20 percent.

Colorado Springs Utilities is updating its Energy Vision between now and May 2019 to update renewable energy goals and include long term planning. The public comment period has yet to be announced. 

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