In our efforts to provide various avenues of renewable energy, yet keep costs affordable, Poudre Valley REA (PVREA) is developing 8-megawatts of solar generation here locally.
Different than the community solar farms, the generation from these solar generation facilities will be directly tied into the Cooperative’s distribution system and used as a local energy source, contributing to the local power mix for all PVREA members.
“PVREA strives to remain at the forefront of technology with the electric grid. The community solar farm projects were successful, so we started researching additional renewable energy avenues that benefit our membership and the environment. These solar generation facilities help achieve the goals of providing affordable, renewable power from a local energy source,” CEO Jeff Wadsworth said.
In 2014, PVREA started researching the possibility of building utility scale solar generation facilities – a generation source that would flow energy from the sun directly to PVREA substations and out to the membership.
Several factors contributed into determining whether or not PVREA could build these large solar projects:
>Location/Size: For solar generation of this size, PVREA needed at least 40 acres to construct the solar array, which is about the size of 30 football fields. The location also needed to be in an area where PVREA could tie this solar energy onto our local distribution grid where needed due to local usage.
>Tying into the grid: Intricate engineering goes into the electric grid. The electric grid was designed to deliver electricity in a balanced fashion in one direction. Keeping the energy produced from these solar arrays on PVREA’s local distribution grid without using the bulk electric transmission system is crucial as once energy is delivered onto the bulk electric transmission system it is bound to various and expensive rules and regulations.
>Reliability: Although solar is a renewable energy source, it is not a 24/7 one. When the clouds roll in and the sun stops shining, solar does not generate, or it does not generate near enough energy for baseload generation. Baseload generation is the minimum amount of electricity required to meet demand. The solar generation facilities will be used as supplemental power. Backup power is already available when needed so reliability is not affected.
The generation facilities will require at least 100 acres of land to construct, which is about the size of 75 football fields. The facilities will produce electricity from approximately 35,000 solar panels, enough to power nearly 1,300 PVREA households. The locations were determined based upon local generation need in PVREA’s service territory and ease of connectivity into existing substations on the local distribution grid.
PVREA has entered into a 20 year contract with Silicon Ranch Corporation, a Tennessee based company, to purchase the power generated from the two generation facilities. Under the agreement, Silicon Ranch will own and operate the solar arrays and PVREA will purchase the energy and environmental attributes it produces at cost-competitive rates. The Cooperative is currently working with Silicon Ranch on the engineering and permitting process of the project, with the goal of completing the project and delivering energy by the end of 2015.
Matt Kisber, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch Corporation, said, “Solar is a responsible energy choice from both environmental and economic considerations, and Silicon Ranch is proud to help PVREA increase its diverse energy mix. As a long-term owner of our projects, we take great pride in being an excellent neighbor and active member in the communities where we do business and are excited about the benefits this project will bring to the region.”