Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association has brought two new solar farms online. (Courtesy PVREA)

2 Weld solar farms come online for PVREA

FORT COLLINS — Nearly 100,000 solar panels in western Weld County — equivalent to the size of 48 football fields — have been activated and are generating renewable energy for Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association customers in Northern Colorado, the cooperative announced Friday.

The solar farms will generate enough electricity to power 1,300 homes annually, PVREA said.

The Skylark solar facility, located five miles east of Interstate 25 at the intersection of Colorado Highways 14 and 257 near Severance, and the Valley View solar facility, between I-25 and Greeley near the intersection of U.S. Highway 34 and Colorado 257, went online Dec. 23, said PVREA communications director Amy Blunck. The 8-megawatt solar farms sit on a combined 150 acres of land and are 12 times larger than the co-op’s second Community Solar Farm that went live in January 2015 and are one of the first of their kind in Northern Colorado, PVREA said.

“This project is a milestone for Poudre Valley REA,” said Jeff Wadsworth, the co-op’s chief executive. “Although we have completed renewable-energy projects prior, such as our Community Solar Farms and the Carter Lake Hydropower Project, the Skylark and Valley View solar facilities are significantly larger and add another local, renewable energy source.”

PVREA last year signed a purchase power agreement with Nashville, Tenn.-based Silicon Ranch Corp. to develop the Skylark and Valley View facilities. Employee-owned McCarthy Building Cos., whose southwest division is based in Phoenix, was contracted by Silicon Ranch to build the solar facilities and hired 160 local workers in Northern Colorado. The project was completed in three months.

“We have spent considerable time and effort over the past several months listening, learning, and responding to various stakeholders throughout Weld County, including but not limited to Upstate Colorado Economic Development, Greeley City Council, the Weld County Board of County Commissioners, local city and county planning departments and, of course, our neighbors,” said Matt Kisber, president and CEO of Silicon Ranch, in a prepared statement. “Today we celebrate the commissioning of these solar facilities as a true group effort, and we are grateful for all of our project partners.”

The co-op’s other renewable-energy projects include Carter Lake Hydropower and two community solar farms. Several hundred of its members have individual photovoltaic solar systems. With the commissioning of the Skylark and Valley View solar facilities, PVREA said, its members receive 28 percent of their energy from renewable resources.

Member-owned, not-for-profit PVREA serves more than 38,000 consumer-members in Boulder, Larimer and Weld counties.

Silicon Ranch Corp., one of the top 15 solar operators in the nation, is building a 13-megawatt solar farm along Colorado 52 on the east side of Fort Lupton that will generate enough power to supply about 2,500 households when it comes online this spring. Brighton-based United Power, another rural co-op that serves 75,000 homes and businesses in Northern Colorado, has committed to buy all the electricity from that project for the next 20 years.