COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Colorado Springs Utilities customers will soon receive more of their electricity from the sun. The city-owned utility announced plans Wednesday for a 175-megawatt (MW) solar farm to be coupled with a 25 MW battery storage system, all built and installed by Boulder-based juwi Inc.
"We are going to integrate the solar energy into the rest of our grid and it can effectively provide energy for 55,000 homes in Colorado Springs," said City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler, chair of the Colorado Springs Utilities Board of Directors.
Coupling the solar array to a battery storage system adds resilience. Mark Marion, VP of Operations for juwi Inc. explained that system can still provide electricity overnight and on cloudy days.
"The battery component gives some flexibility to Colorado Springs Utilities and how they manage their system," explained Mark Marion, VP of Operations for juwi Inc.
The additional power will broaden the community's renewable energy production to roughly 27% of Colorado Springs Utilities' energy portfolio. It will also help to meet the new state-mandated 80% carbon reduction by the year 2030.
In late June, the CSU Board passed an updated Integrated Energy Resource Plan that will speed up the decommissioning of the coal-fired Martin Drake power plant in downtown.
"Because of that goal, we will be closing Drake Power Plant probably no later than 2023, and likely to be closed even sooner," Gaebler said.
She explained that only one of the three power generating units at Drake is still being used with any regularity. Under the new energy resource plan, portable natural-gas-powered units will be installed at Drake while the utility repositions its transmission infrastructure in other parts of the city.
"Coal is no longer cheap energy and so closing down that plant just makes financial sense for our ratepayers," Gaebler added.
The Pike Solar and Storage project will be located in El Paso County near CSU's existing 60 MW Palmer Solar facility. Marion said the engineering and permitting work will likely take place during the next year. He hopes to break ground in 2022 and have the project online by 2023.