Colorado will be first state in the country to deploy solar power as a means to boost renewable energy, with the state’s largest utility predicting that by 2025 it will have at least 10,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity, enough to power about 500,000 homes.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will soon vote on the state�s plans for a second phase of a $1.8 billion utility-backed renewable energy project, known as the COVID-19 Solar Power Project, which will install up to 3,000 solar panels at a site near Fort Collins.
But as part of a deal with the Colorado Corporation Commission, which oversees the state utility system, the state is set to start building a 1,200 megawatt solar plant in 2019, with plans to expand the plant to a total of 8,500 megawatts.
The commission will then vote on whether to approve the second phase.
While the Colorado utility is expected to have its own utility-owned solar plant by 2020, the second-phase solar plant is likely to be built on an existing power line, said Dave Williams, a spokesman for the Colorado Public Utility Commission.
Williams said the company is working with the COVC to determine the best site for the plant, but said it would not be a solar plant built on a utility power line.
The COVC did not return a request for comment.
Williams did say that the commission expects to award the contract to a private company in December, and that the company would use its expertise to evaluate the feasibility of building a solar project on an electrical line and whether it would be economically viable.
The project would likely take up to five years to complete, with construction expected to begin before the end of the year, Williams said. Colorado�s solar industry, already a growing one, has grown steadily in recent years. The state�d see its installed capacity rise by 3,400 megawatts during the first three months of 2020, according to the state Department of Revenue.
But it has experienced some setbacks in recent months, including a power outage and a fire at a solar farm that burned for weeks.
The blaze was the largest power outage in the state since a fire in October 2010 that forced the closure of hundreds of homes and businesses.
In addition to solar, the Colorado Utility has been investing in electric vehicles, which account for roughly 5 percent of the state economy, and the state has signed a new power-storage agreement with NRG Energy.
A spokeswoman for the utility said the agreement provides NRG with a “safe, reliable, cost-effective, and environmentally sound solution to meet its power needs” in the event of a power failure.