Plans have now been firmed up for the construction of several wind and solar farms in eight eastern Colorado counties.
The facilities will belong to Excel Energy of Minneapolis, which has said that the new facilities will add nearly 1,100 megawatts of wind power and 700 megawatts of solar power to its current grid over the course of the next 8 years.
With a significant price tag of $2.5 billion, what is being called the Colorado Energy Plan, which includes five solar and three wind farms, has now received the unanimous approval of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
According to an Excel Energy document called the Colorado Energy Plan, the new facilities will additionally replace two coal-fired power plants in Pueblo, adding 380 megawatts of existing natural gas generation in the process.
The plan predicts that once the projects are fully operational, Excel Energy could by the year 2026 “achieve nearly 55 percent renewable energy” on its power grid, while in the process reducing carbon emissions “by about 60 percent from 2005 levels.”
Before getting a green light from the utilities commission, the Xcel Energy project received the public backing of a group of commissioners from four of the eight counties concerned.
In a letter, the commissioners of Cheyenne, Logan, Prowers, and Yuma contended that “renewable energy production is not only a source of pride in our counties, but it is a key economic factor that will help us grow and strengthen our local communities.”
The overall energy plan also won the prominent support of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who said it is “good for our future, retires coal plants, advances renewables, and costs less.”
Xcel wants to close Unit 1 of its Comanche coal-fired facility just south of Pueblo by the end of 2022, with Unit 2 set for closure three years later.
A third coal-fired facility called Unit 3 is expected to remain open.
By Garry Boulard
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