Big Blue to install big solar in Boulder


Boulder, Colorado and IBM both took giant solar steps with the announcement of a 6 MW installation at the corporation’s Gunbarrel campus in the City’s northeast area. The system is expected to installed by the end of 2018 and generate about 9.5 million kWh a year, providing the equivalent electricity supply for an estimated 1,100 Colorado homes, using PVWatts and U.S. Energy Information Agency sources. The array will be the largest PV system in Boulder as well as the largest on an IBM campus.

This action dovetails nicely with corporate and municipal goals. On their website, IBM reports that 21.5 percent of their contracted electricity came from renewable sources in 2016. This achievement surpassed their goal of 20% by the year 2020. When normal grid supplied electricity is included, IBM’s electricity is 40.6% renewable sourced in their 18-nation locations.

Meanwhile, Boulder is one of the first U.S. cities to commit to a goal of 100% renewable sourced electricity by the year 2030, with an interim goal of 40% by 2020. The city has about 25 MW of rooftop solar at present, with a goal of 100 MW by 2030.

The developer of the project is NextEra Energy Resources, which has developed over 3,000 megawatts (MW) of PV projects in the United States, and intends to have an additional 400-1,300 MW developed by the end of 2018. The host utility, Xcel, revived its Large Solar*Rewards program for a local incentive. Unlike the other Solar*Rewards programs, which offered fixed incentives, the Large Solar*Rewards program was awarded based on competitive proposals. Xcel intends to continue the program going forward.

Meanwhile, Boulder continues their drive to municipalize electric service under their Energy Future initiative. Voters in the November 7th election supported two of the three referenda questions concerning the issue, and the City and City Council are presently working on debt issues that would address financing the assumption of Xcel assets. The goals of Energy Future, besides 100% clean energy, is to maintain or reduce energy costs and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050.

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