New solar complex at CMC Spring Valley the largest of its kind in Colorado
Colorado’s largest solar array and battery storage facility of its kind was the focus on Sept. 14 of a public ribbon-cutting celebration at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs. The project is 95% complete and will reach commercial operation this fall.
Community members, renewable energy experts, government officials and CMC students, including students from the college’s sustainability studies program, faculty and staff gathered at the Spring Valley campus to commemorate the occasion with speeches and vehicle tours of the 22-acre solar array site. Gov. Jared Polis shared his support of the project in a taped presentation.
“Protecting Colorado’s way of life means doing our part to combat climate change,” Polis said. “Swiftly adopting renewable energy in our electricity sector and then extending the impact of that clean electricity across the economy will protect the health of our communities, create good paying jobs, strengthen our economy and save Coloradans money. It’s projects like the one we celebrate today that will make that possible. When organizations like Colorado Mountain College, Holy Cross Energy and Ameresco partner together, amazing things can happen.”
The Solar Array and Battery Storage Complex at Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley is the result of a partnership between Ameresco, a clean-technology leader headquartered in Framingham, Massachusetts; Holy Cross Energy, a local rural electric cooperative serving close to 50,000 members in the Eagle, Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys; Sunsense Solar, a Carbondale-based solar electric engineering and construction contractor; and Colorado Mountain College, which is leasing college-owned land just south of the Spring Valley campus to Ameresco to operate the project.
“Here in the rural West, we have long understood we are stronger when we work together,” said CMC President and CEO Carrie Besnette Hauser. “This collaboration between CMC, Holy Cross and Ameresco is a shining example of that ethos as we work together to reduce our carbon emissions and protect these amazing mountain landscapes that we all love from the very real threat of climate change. We must all do our part.”
The solar array is a 4.5AC-megawatt, grid-tied project that sends electricity directly to HCE’s distribution system, making renewable energy an environmentally sound and cost-effective option to its members. The array can supply renewable solar energy to approximately 1,000 homes. The complex also includes five megawatts of battery storage, which can be discharged during times of peak-demand for HCE.
Additionally, the avoided annual greenhouse gas emissions of the project’s solar photovoltaic system are expected to be 6,853 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which equates to the emissions benefit of annually removing 1,481 passenger vehicles from the road or not burning 7,551,050 pounds of coal.
Comprised of over 13,500 solar modules, many of which can track the sun, the project also includes a battery system that contains 68 battery stacks housed in four on-site containers that allow for solar power in a variety of conditions.
The renewable energy efficiencies of this project will allow HCE and Colorado Mountain College to both achieve goals they have set. It will further HCE’s goal of increasing the renewable energy it provides to its members to 100% clean energy sources by 2030. And it will move CMC towards its 2050 carbon neutrality goal, since HCE will retire renewable energy credits on the college’s behalf, in a quantity sufficient to offset 100% of the electricity use of three CMC campuses at Aspen, Spring Valley and Vail Valley.
“The Holy Cross Energy/Colorado Mountain College solar-plus-storage project is a great example of a win-win renewable project,” said Sam Whelan, HCE’s vice president of power supply. “Not only does the project assist both HCE and CMC toward their renewable and carbon goals, but it also provides us with the flexibility to operate an increasingly renewable portfolio. To top it all off, we’re able to do this in a financially responsible way that saves money for all our members.”
“Our partnership with Colorado Mountain College and Holy Cross Energy on this impressive solar and battery energy storage project that utilizes a unique model of collaboration enables all sides to simultaneously finance the feat and achieve individual sustainability targets,” said Ameresco EVP Louis Maltezos. “This forward-thinking model not only advances Colorado’s renewable energy goals but ushers in a new era of sustainable collaboration for the state.”