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Colorado State’s Giant Solar Array Lights Up the Campus

Pueblo, Colorado, January 16, 2009
Source: Environmental News Service ENS

A new solar power system has been installed at Colorado State University-Pueblo that will provide more than 10 percent of the future power needs on campus.  The 1.2-megawatt solar power system, one of the largest at an educational institution in the United States, will help the university control utility costs as prices and usage increase over time.  The system was built on the east side of the Pueblo campus near the university’s physical plant complex and softball fields. The solar array covers 4.3 acres with more than 6,800 photovoltaic panels, and can generate about 1,800 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

“This project is an excellent example of how the New Energy Economy leverages private and public partnerships in developing clean energy projects. Most importantly, it will help the university control its long-term energy costs and direct those funds back into the classroom,” said Governor Bill Ritter at the dedication ceremony Tuesday.

At the dedication ceremony, Governor Ritter flipped the giant switch near the podium, starting power flowing from the new CSU-Pueblo solar panels. The new solar system supports Governor Ritter’s plan for a “New Energy Economy,” which would make Colorado a hub for solar energy manufacturing, research and development, and installations. The state has a solid base to build on with the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden where clean energy R&D has been taking place for decades.

In his State of the State speech last week, the governor mentioned the New Energy Economy frequently. One of the features of his plan is to place wind and solar installations on schools in rural Colorado.

“We view this as an extension of the commitment the university and the Colorado State University system have made to renewable and sustainable energy,” said CSU-Pueblo President Joseph Garcia. “This project serves as a strong and very visible statement about the university’s support for sustainable energy resources.”

Garcia thanked the firms involved in the development of the solar power system, including Smart Growth Advocates, a Pueblo-based nonprofit firm responsible for bringing together the university, BP Solar and Black Hills Energy.  The British firm BP Solar installed and will operate and maintain the system, selling the zero-carbon electricity to the university.  “We are proud to be able to bring a large-scale solar solution to CSU-Pueblo, and in a way that avoids their need for upfront investment,” said Reyad Fezzani, BP Solar chief executive.

Project funding was provided by BP Solar and supplemented by Black Hills Energy, CSU-Pueblo’s local electric utility company, as part of its solar rebate program.  Black Hills Energy, which serves customers in southeast Colorado, will purchase from BP Solar the renewable energy credits created by the project.  “Black Hills Energy is committed to renewable energy for the state of Colorado,” said Gary Stone at the dedication ceremony. Stone is Black Hills Energy vice president for Colorado electric operations.

The new solar facility helps Black Hills Energy to meet its requirements under the Colorado renewable energy standard. That standard requires that five percent of its electricity sales be generated from renewable sources.