Renewable Energy Systems to build Colorado's largest solar farm

Renewable Energy Systems Americas will set up Colorado's largest solar farm, one that it expected to generate electricity more cheaply than natural gas-powered sources.

Broomfield-based RES expected to employ 300 to 400 workers to build the Comanche Solar project.

"Our current expectations are that the majority of these workers are local or would be sourced locally," said RES spokesman Scott Dunaway.

SunEdison which raised $253 million for the project will run the solar farm with four employees once it was operational.

The farm's 500,000 panels would stretch about 1,000 acres, and with a capacity of 156MW generate enough power to supply 31,000 homes, according to Paul Gaynor, an executive vice president with SunEdison, based in Belmont, California.

According to Gaynor, several factors contributed to lowering the project's price tag and making it cost competitive with natural gas generation, including economies of scale, existing roads in the area, and "plug-and-play" access to transmission lines serving a nearby power plant.

Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, and SunEdison have signed a 25-year purchase agreement.

Under a Colorado law passed in 2010, energy from renewable sources must comprise at least 30 per cent of the power supply of the state's largest utilities.

According to SunEdison, the  Comanche Solar project would be one of its largest solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants to date.

On completion, the Comanche Solar project would be the largest PV plant east of the Rocky Mountains.

"The Comanche Solar project demonstrates SunEdison's ability to deliver renewable energy at a price competitive with conventional resources," said Gaynor.

"In addition, the Comanche Solar project will be financed through SunEdison's $1.5 billion non-recourse, First Reserve Warehouse. This facility is designed to expand as projects move into construction without incremental equity contributions by SunEdison."

The Comanche solar power plant would be the largest in Colorado and is expected to produce more than 300 gigawatt-hours of solar power annually, enough to power approximately 30,000 Colorado homes.

"SunEdison, through the Comanche Solar project, is helping move us in the right direction. It demonstrates that large-scale solar power can play an increasingly larger role in our customers' energy future at a competitive price point," said David Eves, president of Public Service Company of Colorado.

"Our participation in this project demonstrates that Xcel Energy is committed to providing customers the clean energy they want, at an affordable price."