Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Colorado Springs Utilities to add solar panels to power 30,000 homes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 3:59 PM

click to enlarge Here's an aerial view of Springs Utilities newest source of renewable energy at Clear Spring Ranch south of the city. This project features 42,000 solar panels that will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes annually. It also moves the city closer to its Energy Vision, which requires 20 percent of total electric energy be produced through renewable sources by 2020. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Here's an aerial view of Springs Utilities newest source of renewable energy at Clear Spring Ranch south of the city. This project features 42,000 solar panels that will produce enough energy to power 3,000 homes annually. It also moves the city closer to its Energy Vision, which requires 20 percent of total electric energy be produced through renewable sources by 2020.

In the last few years, the buzz about energy locally has focused on when the downtown Drake Power Plant, powered by coal or natural gas, will be shut down for good.

We still don't have a definitive answer, beyond the official Utilities Board action to shutter the plant by 2035, but Colorado Springs Utilities is taking a significant step toward renewables in seeking to finalize a contract for 150 more megawatts of solar power.

This is in addition to an existing solar array at Clear Springs Ranch about 10 miles south of the city.

Here's Utilities' news release about the coming addition of solar panels:
Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) is finalizing negotiations and in the coming months will award a contract for 150 megawatts of new solar generation plus a 25-megawatt battery storage system by the end of 2023. At this time, it is the largest energy storage facility announced in Colorado.

“Energy storage is an integral part of our ability to transition from fossil fuels to incorporating more renewables into our system,” says Springs Utilities Chief Executive Officer Aram Benyamin.

“We are changing the way we power the Pikes Peak region and are on a path to reduce our carbon emissions by 40 percent or more from 2005 to 2035.”

The battery project will provide the utility with valuable information about improving solar power integration and reducing the need for natural gas to maintain reliability. For this reason, the utility will negotiate an option to add more storage capacity to the battery system in the future.

“This project will familiarize us with utility-scale battery technology and give us the flexibility to seek better pricing as the technology improves and our load growth materializes,” Benyamin explains.

The battery will be used to store less expensive solar energy during the day so that it can be used during more expensive peak demand periods. With the ability to run for up to four hours at maximum capacity, upwards of 30,000 homes will be powered when the battery is dispatched.

The reduction of carbon emissions will be realized by decommissioning one of the utility’s coal-fired power plants and the addition of more solar power. Beyond the 150-megawatt project, the utility is planning to add another 95 megawatts of solar power by the end of the year.

Once all of these renewable energy projects are online, more than 95,000 homes annually will be powered by this carbon-free energy.
Watch a video of the solar array south of the city here.

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