Tennessee firm building 13-megawatt solar farm for United Power

FORT LUPTON – Officials for Tennessee solar provider Silicon Ranch Corp., say the construction phase of the 13-megawatt solar farm they’re building on the east side of Fort Lupton will result in roughly $20 million in economic impact for the local area.

The Fort Lupton city council recently approved the project, which will generate enough power to supply about 2,500 households. Construction is slated to begin in the coming weeks and be completed in the spring of 2016.

The project will occupy about 112 acres of a 140-acre site owned by Silicon Ranch at 16307 Highway 52.

Silicon Ranch has not disclosed the cost to build the project, which the company will own. Silicon Ranch senior vice president of business development Matt Beasley said Friday that the economic impact estimate is based on the company’s experience with similarly sized projects it has built in the past. Beasley said the firm “is committed to using local service providers and hiring qualified local labor whenever possible.”

United Power, a rural electric cooperative that provides service for 75,000 homes and businesses in Northern Colorado has a power purchase agreement with Silicon Ranch to buy 100 percent of the electricity generated from the solar farm for the next 20 years.

Jerry Marizza, new energy project coordinator for United Power, said the project will account for about three percent of the utility’s overall capacity, though he said on average it will likely provide a little more than one percent  of the energy the utility actually sells.

Marizza said power will be comparable cost-wise to what United pays for base-load power now, but it will be particularly beneficial in the longterm in helping mitigate against future rate increases.

“This chunk of energy is a known flat amount,” Marizza said.

Silicon Ranch is no stranger to building solar farms in Northern Colorado. In May, the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association announced that it would lease the power from an 8-megawatt Silicon Ranch farm built on two separate Weld County sites and completed later this year.

Beasley said that the company has a couple of more Colorado projects in the pipeline.

“We’re not quite to the stage where we can announce them,” Beasley said.