Colorado State University Dedicates One of Nation's Largest Solar Plants on a University Campus

Colorado State University today dedicated one of the largest solar plants in the nation at a university – a two-megawatt operation that will help the state meet goals for renewable energy and keep the university’s utility rates stable and affordable during the next 20 years.

The solar power plant, owned and operated by Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, features more than 8,000 Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) panels that cover 15 acres of the university’s Foothills Campus – about three miles west of the main campus. The panels rotate to track the sun’s movement.

Each year, Xcel Energy solicits bids for solar installations to meet the solar energy mandates of the Colorado Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, also known as Amendment 37. Colorado State partnered with Fotowatio Renewable Ventures to submit a bid to Xcel for a two-megawatt installation, which was one of three bids selected by Xcel.

The project, part of the Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards program, received a rebate to offset construction costs. The project had an estimated economic impact of roughly USD 1.7 million from local labour,subcontractors and materials. The plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 2,500 t – the equivalent of removing more than 480 cars off the road each year. It’s the second solar project to be announced within the Colorado State University System. CSU-Pueblodedicated a new 1.2 MW solar array in 2008.

“This CSU solar project delivers on the Colorado promise of the New Energy Economy, which is establishing Colorado as a leader in renewable energy and creating jobs throughout the state,” said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. “Not only is CSU researching and developing new clean energy sources, it’s adopting them to power its own operations.”

“Colorado State University is a leader in developing clean and renewable energy research solutions and has a strong research history in the field of solar energy,” said Tony Frank, president of Colorado State University. “Our students and the community benefit from seeing a real-life application of renewable energy at work. At the same time, we’re saving money during tight fiscal times. This solar plant and our biomass boiler, which opened last fall, together help lower the costs of providing power to our Foothills facilities. Over 20 years, we expect to save the university more than USD 2 million in electric costs from the solar plant alone.”

“By securing clean, reliable solar power through a power purchase agreement rather than major capital investment, Colorado State University will benefit from a renewable energy system that is cost-effective for years to come,” said José Benjumea, president of Fotowatio Renewable Ventures. “This collaborative effort serves as an example of how successful public-private partnerships can help universities and other public institutions make the most of financing, including tax credits and other incentives available for solar energy.”

Partners in the Colorado State project:

  • Fotowatio Renewable Ventures financed, owns and will operate the solar power plant for 20 years.
  • Colorado State University leased the land to Fotowatio and will purchase the electricity produced bythe plant at a fixed rate for 20 years, providing CSU with protection against future rate increases without any upfront costs to the university.
  • Xcel Energy will purchase the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) produced by the facility in support of Colorado’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires large utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020.
  • AMEC (LSE: AMEC), the international engineering and project management company, designed and installed the solar power system, which features photovoltaic modules by Trina Solar.
  • The system features a DuraTrack HZ single-axis tracking system made by Array Technologies that maximizes solar electrical generation.
  • Advanced Energy (NASDAQ: AEIS), a Fort Collins, Colo., company built the inverters that convert the solar power from DC to AC electricity. The project has multiple benefits for Colorado State University. In addition to providing lower utility ratesover time, the solar power plant will provide more than 10 percent of the Foothills Campus electricity needs. The university also has the option to purchase the solar plant at the end of the 20-year contract for the fairmarket value. At that time, the university could claim the full value of the Renewable Energy Credits generated by the plant.