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Environment / Sustainability

Solar power plant to be built on Foothills Campus

August 3, 2009

Colorado State University this fall will install a two-megawatt solar power plant on the university's Foothills Campus as part of Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards program -- enough solar power to meet more than 10 percent of the university's electric energy needs on the Foothills Campus.

One of largest at a U.S. university

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, Colorado State 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 Colorado State University System. CSU-Pueblo dedicated a new 1.2 MW solar array in 2008.

(Photos on this page: A similar Renewable Ventures 2-megawatt solar facility at Denver International Airport.)

Innovative public-private partnership

Colorado State University is working with Xcel Energy and renewable energy developer, Renewable Ventures, a Fotowatio company, in an innovative public-private partnership, to leverage tax credits and incentives to finance the Foothills Campus solar power system. This partnership will enable the university to deploy the solar array under a long-term electricity contract with Renewable Ventures known as a Power Purchase Agreement. Colorado State University will provide the land under a long-term lease and will 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. Colorado State University, through a competitive selection process, chose to work with Renewable Ventures, a well-known firm in the industry, to submit a bid to Xcel Energy for a two-megawatt installation at the Foothills Campus.

Option to purchase solar panels after 20 years

Xcel Energy signed an agreement with Renewable Ventures to purchase the renewable energy credits associated with 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 online that will also be financially beneficial for many years to come,” said Rick Miranda, interim provost at Colorado State.

“This is a good deal that is going to save the university money as well as help the environment,” said Carol Dollard, Colorado State 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.”

Located just east of city water treatment plant

AMEC, an international engineering and project management company, will construct the solar array, which will be located just east of the city of Fort Collins water treatment plant. The land is on the western end of Laporte Avenue on property that was previously designated as pasture. AMEC will work with Brian Chase, director of Facilities at Colorado State, throughout the construction process on the solar power tracking system.

(Photo: Aerial view of part of Foothills Campus, as seen in 2003.)

The solar project means that more than 10 percent of the electricity used to power the Foothills Campus will come from renewable sources. The university recently added a biomass boiler on the Foothills Campus to reduce the university's greenhouse gas emissions and cut energy costs. The heating plant will burn wood chips rather than rely solely on natural gas to provide hot water for the Judson M. Harper Research Complex.

Colorado State also recently added solar panels on the roof of the Engineering Building. Similar projects are planned on two buildings that are under construction:

  • Academic Instruction Building just south of the Clark Building 
  • Parking garage at Centre Avenue and Prospect Road

Leadership as a green university

“Colorado State University is the type of leading research institution that we want to be associated with in our large-scale Solar*Rewards program,” said Miguel Florez, director of marketing for Xcel Energy.

Through its leadership as a green university, CSU transforms lives – generating jobs, improving health and living conditions for people worldwide, and stimulating economic prosperity. In addition to its green campus efforts, more than 100 faculty members engage in researching market-driven solutions to some of the world’s largest energy and environmental problems. In March 2008, the university announced the Clean Energy Supercluster, an innovative business model for speeding clean energy research to the marketplace.

About Renewable Ventures, a Fotowatio company

Fotowatio, one of the largest solar power companies in the world, is an independent renewable power producer (IPP) with 130 megawatts of solar projects in operation in the United States and Europe. Fotowatio has more than 1,000 megawatts in development across the United States, Spain and Italy using both PV and CSP technologies.

A global company, Fotowatio is owned by GE Energy Financial Services, Landon Group, and Qualitas Venture Capital. Renewable Ventures is Fotowatio’s U.S. global business unit with an exclusive focus on the development of commercial and utility-scale solar projects throughout the United States.

About AMEC

AMEC (LSE: AMEC) is a focused supplier of high-value consultancy, engineering and project management services to the world’s energy, power and process industries. With annual revenues of over £2.6 billion (U.S. $4.2 billion), AMEC designs, delivers and maintains strategic and complex assets for its customers. AMEC's Natural Resources, Power and Process and Earth and Environmental businesses employ over 22,000 people in more than 30 countries globally.

For almost 100 years AMEC has provided detailed design, engineering and construction management services to power developers, utilities, industry, contractors, financial institutions, governments and renewable technology developers. The company has project experience in many of the key renewables sectors including wind, biomass, biofuels, energy from waste, hydrogen, fuel cells, carbon capture and storage and clean coal.


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