This fall Colorado State University will install a 2-mw solar power plant on the university’s Foothills Campus as part of Xcel Energy Solar Rewards program and expects to create enough solar power to meet more than 10% of the university’s energy needs.

The 15-acre solar array is expected to be one of the largest at a U.S. university when it’s finished, likely at the end of 2009. In exchange for hosting the solar panels, CSU locked in a 20-year contract for solar power to keep costs low during volatile energy markets with rising electricity costs.
It’s the second solar project to be announced within the CSU system. CSU-Pueblo dedicated a new 1.2-mw solar array in 2008.
CSU is working with Xcel Energy and renewable energy developer Renewable Ventures, a Fotowatio company, in a public-private partnership to leverage tax credits and incentives to finance the new solar power system. The partnership will enable the university to deploy the solar array under a Power Purchase Agreement, a long-term electricity contract with Renewable Ventures. CSU will provide the land under a long-term lease and purchase the power produced from the solar array at a fixed rate for 20 years.
Through the Request for Proposal portion of its Solar Rewards program, Xcel Energy solicits bids for solar installations to meet the solar energy mandates of the Colorado Renewable Energy Standard. CSU, through a competitive selection process, chose to work with Renewable Ventures to submit a bid to Xcel Energy for a 2-mw installation at the Foothills Campus.
Xcel Energy agreed with Renewable Ventures to purchase the renewable energy credits for the power being produced. At the end of the 20-year term, the university has an option to purchase the solar panels.
“The university is proud to be a state leader in the utilization of renewable and clean energy solutions, and it is especially satisfying to put projects on line that will also be financially beneficial for many years to come,” said Rick Miranda, CSU interim provost.
“This is a good deal that is going to save the university money as well as help the environment,” said Carol Dollard, CSU energy engineer. “As part of the agreement, we’ll eventually have the option to purchase the solar panels, which helps Colorado State build its growing national and international reputation as the green university. Colorado State continues to set the standard for clean and renewable energy solutions – on our physical campus and through our groundbreaking research.”
AMEC, an international engineering and project management company, will construct the solar array, which will be located just east of the city’s water treatment plant. The land is on the western end of Laporte Avenue on property previously designated as pasture. AMEC will work with Brian Chase, director of facilities at CSU, throughout construction on the solar-power system.
The solar project means that more than 10% of the electricity used to power the Foothills Campus will come from renewable sources. CSU recently added a biomass boiler on the Foothills Campus to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and cut energy costs. The heating plant will burn wood chips rather than rely on natural gas to provide hot water for the Judson M. Harper Research Complex at the Foothills Campus.
CSU also recently added solar panels on the roof of the Engineering Building at its Foothills Campus. Similar projects are planned on two buildings under construction: the Academic Instruction Building just south of the Clark Building and the parking garage at Centre Avenue and Prospect Road.