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Environment / Sustainability

Colorado State University dedicates one of nation's largest solar plants on a university campus

January 22, 2010

Colorado State University on Friday dedicated a two-megawatt solar plant on 15 acres on the Foothills campus with the Governor and community leaders. Because of space limitations and weather conditions affecting the site, campus tours of the facility, which is owned by private company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, will be offered later this spring. Stay tuned to Today at Colorado State for more information!

The Foothills Campus solar power plant features more than 8,000 Trina Solar panels that rotate to track the sun's movement. Aerial photo courtesy of Steve Proehl and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures.

8,000 solar panels over 15 acres

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.

Reduce emissions 

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 $1.7 million from local labor, subcontractors and materials. The plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 5.5 million pounds – 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-Pueblo dedicated a new 1.2 MW solar array in 2008.

Leader in renewable energy

“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 $2 million in electric costs from the solar plant alone.”

Successful public-private partnership

Campus tours of the solar plant, which is owned by private company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, will be offered later this spring.

“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 Jose 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 by the plant at 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.

Lower utility rates, provide own electric needs 

The project has multiple benefits for Colorado State University. In addition to providing lower utility rates over time, the solar power plant will provide more than 10 percent of the Foothills Campus electric needs.

The university also has the option to purchase the solar plant at the end of the 20-year contract for the fair market value. At that time, the university could claim the full value of the Renewable Energy Credits generated by the plant.


Contact: Emily Wilmsen
E-mail: Emily.Wilmsen@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-2336