Witnessing an Explosion

Departments - Across the Nation

December 9, 2011
Matthew Grasson

When most Americans think of Colorado, they think of the white snowcaps of the Rocky Mountains. With the help of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES), they will soon be thinking green.

CRES is a nonprofit membership organization that works to increase awareness of the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. In addition, CRES serves as a leading resource for providing renewable energy information to the people of Colorado, while supporting the sensible adoption of these technologies by Colorado businesses and consumers.

Residents of Colorado are witnessing an explosion of wind, solar, and hydro-powered projects in their own backyards. Cedar Point Wind recently completed a $535 million project in Limon, CO, consisting of Vestas V90 1.8MW wind turbines. Completed by Enbridge Inc. and Renewable Energy Systems Americas, the wind farm provides 250MW of wind energy to the Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved the first small hydro agreement in Colorado. Approval of the Meeker Wenschhof hydroelectric project, which is to be located on an existing irrigation pipeline near the town of Meeker, saw completion in two months under the new process. The project will consist of a powerhouse containing one generating unit with an installed capacity of 23kW and an average annual generation of 100,000kWh.

In signing the memorandum of understanding with Colorado in August 2010, FERC officials say they have seen rising interest among entities seeking to develop small, low-impact hydro-power projects. Federal surveys have identified several hundred potential small hydro-power projects – smaller than 5MW in Colorado – with a combined capacity of more than 1,400MW. These projects have the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting Colorado's energy needs, while helping to satisfy Colorado's Renewable Energy Standard while creating related business opportunities.

However, the most impressive addition to Colorado's portfolio will be the addition of the largest U.S. solar factory. In October, GE officials announced that the city of Aurora will be home to the $300 million solar factory. According to Vic Abate, vice president, renewable energy, GE, building of the factory will be without federal subsidies. Abate states that GE officials chose Aurora because of pre-existing facilities and its proximity to GE's test manufacturing line.

The factory, which will be bigger than 11 football fields, will have an annual capacity of 400MW, enough to supply electricity to approximately 80,000 homes.

In support of these many developments, Colorado State University (CSU) is currently ranked as one of the top four major public research universities for solar power, according to a report by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

AASHE also lists CSU as having two of the top 10 largest photovoltaic installations at a four-year university. Overall, the university ranks sixth among all public and private colleges and universities, with an average production of 5,500kW of solar power.

With all of these projects and a top level university, the state has the talent, workforce, and education system to make Colorado a leader in renewable energies for years to come.


Colorado Renewable Energy Society
Denver, CO

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