solar array

A new solar energy generating facility near Calhan is powering Colorado Springs homes and businesses through a partnership between Colorado Springs Utilities and NextEra Energy Resources.

With 119,000 panels across 278 acres, the Grazing Yak Solar Project provides 35 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 13,000 homes per year.

For the next 25 years, Colorado Springs Utilities will purchase the electricity the array generates from a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, which owns and operates Grazing Yak.

“As detailed in our Energy Vision, we are committed to providing resilient, reliable and cost-effective energy that is environmentally sustainable,” CSU CEO Aram Benyamin said in a news release. “Grazing Yak is one of the latest examples of how we are partnering with entities to change the way we power Colorado Springs, taking advantage of the economics and environmental benefits of solar power.”

The project represents a significant economic benefit to the region, through good jobs that were created to construct it and “millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to benefit its local community for years to come,” John Di Donato, VP of development for renewable energy giant NextEra Energy Resources, said in a news released issued by CSU.

“We are proud to work with Colorado Springs Utilities to generate more clean, low-cost renewable energy for its customers,” Di Donato said.

Public-private partnerships like this one save money for Springs Utilities customers as there are no or low upfront capital costs for the utility, according to the release. Private developers also benefit by leveragaging available tax credits to reduce capital system costs.

Grazing Yak, which came online in November, is the second universal-scale solar project producing renewable energy for Colorado Springs, according to CSU. In 2016, the utility added 10 megawatts of solar energy to its portfolio from the Clear Spring Ranch Solar Array, also owned and operated by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources.

For the first time this year, the utility is offering a voluntary green power rate to help support green energy projects.

Residential and commercial customers can designate part of all of their monthly electric use to be generated by solar energy.

In the coming months, another 60 megawatts of solar capacity will be added to the utility’s offering.

The utility has two solar projects in the final stages of construction and one for which it is in contract negotiations.

When all of these projects are operating, “our carbon-free energy mix will be more than 20 percent,” Amy Trinidad, the utility’s senior public affairs specialist, told the Business Journal last month.

“More than 100,000 homes annually will be powered by utility-scale solar energy, and we will have more than 264 megawatts of solar power in our generation portfolio,” Trinidad said.

A video of the Grazing Yak Solar Project can be viewed here.