This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 05, 2006

Xcel Energy Plans to Finance Large Solar Power Plant in Colorado

Xcel Energy released a request for proposals (RFP) on March 30th for a company to build a large solar photovoltaic plant about 20 miles north of Alamosa in southern Colorado. Xcel Energy wants the solar electric plant to produce 13,700 megawatt-hours of electricity per year but did not specify the total capacity of the plant. However, running the numbers through PVWATTS Version 2—a solar power estimating program from DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory—suggests that to meet Xcel Energy's power requirements, about 8.6 megawatts of fixed solar panels would be needed. If the solar panels track the sun from east to west, about 6.2 megawatts of solar panels would be required. Based on those numbers, the solar power plant would be among the world's largest. See the Xcel Energy press release and RFP and the PVWATTS on-line calculator.

Xcel Energy is also offering one-time payments of roughly $4.50 per watt for solar photovoltaic systems installed on homes and businesses in Colorado. Combined with federal tax credits, the payments can substantially reduce the cost of installing a solar electric system. The new "Solar*Rewards" program is part of Xcel Energy's response to Amendment 37, which sets renewable energy requirements for the state's utilities. See the Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards program and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission's Amendment 37 Rulemaking Web page.

Large solar power installations are cropping up all over the United States. In California, PowerLight Corporation has installed a 1.2-megawatt system at Napa Valley College in Napa, plus a 182-kilowatt system at Deep Springs College in Bishop; Quantum Energy Group (a subsidiary of WorldWater & Power) has installed a 386-kilowatt system in Menlo Park; Sharp has installed a 66.6-kilowatt system at Patagonia's headquarters in Ventura; and 31 schools have earned funding from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to install a total of nearly 677 kilowatts of solar power. In Arizona, Solar Integrated Technologies, Inc. has won a contract to help install a 122-kilowatt solar power system at Luke Air Force Base. And in New Jersey, Oxford Solar plans to build a 500-kilowatt system for the Vernon Township Board of Education, while Northern Power plans to install three systems totaling 750 kilowatts on Pathmark supermarkets. See the PowerLight press releases on its installations at the Napa Valley and Deep Springs colleges, and see the press releases from WorldWater & Power, Sharp (PDF 14 KB), Solar Integrated, Oxford Solar, and Northern Power. Download Adobe Reader.