Platte River Power Authority plans for solar power

Platte River Power Authority hopes to add 30 megawatts of solar generation capacity to its Rawhide plant to meet the demands of the utility’s wholesale electric customers.

“There is interest from the communities to use renewable energy,” said John Bleem, Platte River Power Authority’s planning and customer service director.

The Larimer County Planning Commission on Nov. 19 approved a permit for a 30 megawatt solar photovoltaic system on 185 acres at the 4,500-acre Rawhide Power Generating Station north of Wellington, where about 250 megawatts of electricity are produced using coal and natural gas, according to county planning department reports.

The permit will be looked at by the Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 8, and the utility’s board meets Dec. 11. “There are still key decisions to be made,” Bleem said.

The utility hopes to see commercial operation from the solar panels by the end of March 2016, but Bleem stressed that the project is still in the preliminary stages. According to planning documents, the utility will lease the solar site to a developer who will own and operate the system.

In 2013, about 75.4 percent of the power Platte River Power Authority delivered to its customers was coal generated. Most of 22.5 percent of the electricity from renewable sources was generated using hydroelectric systems.

“Next year, we will use a little more than 30 percent in renewable energy,” Bleem said.

It breaks down to about 20 percent hydro power and about 11 percent wind power.

“We have quite a bit of coal in the mix,” Bleem said.

By adding the solar power, it would add a couple percentage points to the amount of renewable energy delivered by the utility, according to Bleem.

The utility already meets the federal requirements for greenhouse gas regulations and exceeds the requirements for renewable energy use, Bleem said.

Platte River Power Authority is a wholesale electricity generation and transmission provider for Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland.

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