Duke acquires 175 MW Colorado municipal utility solar project


Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions, acquired Pike Solar, a 175 MW development-stage utility solar power plant being built for municipal utility Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU).

The non-regulated commercial arm of utility Duke Energy acquired the project from EPC contractor Juwi Inc., which initially had plans to be coupled with a four-hour lithium-ion battery energy storage system. A Duke Energy spokeswoman told pv magazine that Pike Solar will no longer be installed with an energy storage system, but declined to elaborate on the change.

Both Duke Energy and Juwi will provide operations and maintenance services for the solar facility, which has a 17-year PPA with the utility.

The solar facility is under construction and is scheduled to achieve commercial operation in late 2023, when it will become the largest solar project on CSU’s grid. The facility is located on 1,310 acres in El Paso County, Colorado, and will use more than 414,000 solar panels, providing enough clean power for 55,000 homes per year.  The facility will employ 350 construction workers during peak construction.

“The realization of the Pike Solar project marks another milestone in our company’s history,” said Stephan Hansen, chief operating officer at Juwi.  “Pike Solar is our company’s largest single project worldwide. We are pleased to work with Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions, Colorado Springs Utilities Board and El Paso County’s local officials to add additional clean and cost-effective generation in Colorado, our home base in the U.S.”

Following the deal, Duke Energy’s commercial business will operate three Colorado solar projects with 248 MW of output.  The utility’s U.S. portfolio consists of  more than 10.5 GW of solar and wind energy assets.

Pike Solar marks the second solar collaboration between Juwi and Colorado Springs Utilities, the first being the 60MW Palmer Solar project, which is currently the largest solar project on Colorado Springs Utilities’ system, although it will be overtaken once Pike is complete.

Lightsource bp operates the largest solar project in Colorado, the 300MW Bighorn Solar project in Pueblo, Colorado.  Bighorn Solar provides power to Evraz’s Rocky Mountain Steel plant via a 20-year power purchase agreement with Xcel Energy, the utility that serves the plant.

CSU generates 27% of its electricity from renewable energy resources. On September 1, 2022, the utility shut down the Martin Drake Power Plant, a 207.3 MW coal generation facility.

Initial capacity from the shuttering of its coal generator was filled by six natural gas peaker which are expected to enter commercial operations by March, comprising 43% of the utility’s 2030 generation portfolio. The remainder of its portfolio will consist of solar (12%), wind (9%), and distributed energy resources (28%), including 100 MW of energy storage development.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Rocky Mountain State ranks 13th in the U.S. for solar development, with 2.3 GW of installed capacity through September 30, 2022, with about 6.2% of electricity in the state generated from solar panels. The state also ranks 13th for its modest 3.6 GW growth pipeline of installations forecasted for the next five years.

With about 23 electric cooperatives providing electricity to its residents, Colorado prides itself as a hotbed for community solar these days. Since the Colorado Energy Office launched its first community solar project in 2015, about $1.2 million in financial awards were given to GRID Alternatives to implement the Low-Income Community Solar Demonstration Project platform.  Since its inception, the low-income community solar program has seen 400 low-income households benefit from $120,000 in bill credits from procuring solar energy.

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