CSU eyes new solar installation

FORT COLLINS — CSU has reached an agreement with a Boulder solar-installation company to add solar generation on campus, a university official said Thursday.

How large an array Namaste Solar might install for the university will depend on the structure of the City of Fort Collins’ solar-energy buying program, said Carol Dollard, energy engineer at CSU. That’s because the university would sell electricity generated from the array to the city.

“Our electric load is bigger than anybody’s in town, so we want to get a chunk of it offset with a nice, clean solar system,” she said.

Plans for additional solar capacity come as the city develops a program that will allow institutions to sell excess electricity generated by their arrays to the city’s utility. The city is considering soliciting bids from businesses interested in participating in the program.

The program stems from a mandate by the state requiring utilities serving more than 40,000 customers to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy.

CSU’s potential new solar array would add to the more than 5.5 megawatts of solar electricity capacity at the university, most of which comes from an array at Christman Field.

The university pays SunEdison for the electricity generated by the array as part of a 20-year agreement.

CSU is considering several locations for the new array, including the roofs of Braiden, Corbett and Parmelee halls, or adding to an array on the roof of its Lake Street parking garage.

The electrical generation capacity of the array will depend on what the city’s program ends up looking like. The city has hinted that it may cap at 1 megawatt the amount of solar generation it buys from an individual project, Dollard said.

“We’re game for a system that big,” Dollard said. “Wherever the city sets the upper limit is probably where we’re going to be aiming.”

Namaste Solar would help CSU select a location for the array and perform the installation if the project goes forward. The solar installation company said it planned to open an office in Fort Collins following the City Council’s decision to budget $1 million for the program over the next two years.

The program could grow in popularity and may cost $1 million annually after the second year.

“Our sales team is going to be spending a lot more time in Fort Collins from here on out,” Namaste Solar CEO Blake Jones said.

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