When Xcel Energy made the decision to make solar-powered electricity available to its customers in Colorado, the company initiated a highly competitive solicitation process with solar vendors. Adding solar power to Xcel Energy’s renewable energy portfolio in the state called for a cost-effective solution that would garner the approval of regulatory organizations. Through a Power Purchase Agreement for the energy produced by a new power plant featuring high-efficiency SunPower® T20 Trackers, Xcel Energy is now able to meet the needs of Colorado customers seeking clean, renewable energy from the sun.
Energy Standards Drive Solar Installation
Xcel Energy, the nation’s fifth-largest utility provider of solar power, provides energy-related products and services to customers in eight Western and Mid western states. The company is working aggressively to meet renewable energy standards in all of those states. To help meet Colorado’s “30 Percent by 2020 Renewable Energy Standard” requirements for investor-owned utilities, Xcel Energy aimed to purchase power from a solar plant within its service territory. The financing for the plant would play a key role in the selection of a solar vendor. “As a utility, we are very price-driven,” said Tim Kawakami, Director of Purchased Power at Xcel. “At the time we were not looking at owning the project. So a Power Purchase Agreement was the only way to bring the plant online.”
SunPower Meets All Selection Criteria
In keeping with established process, Xcel Energy sent out a Request for Proposal to many of the solar industry’s leading providers. SunPower responded with a comprehensive proposal enlisting Colorado-based Oakleaf Partners to leverage their local knowledge. After a thorough evaluation period, SunPower was awarded the contract to build the 19 MW Greater Sandhill Solar Farm. The combination of SunPower T20 Trackers,which generate up to 30 percent more energy per land area than conventional systems,along with the Power Purchase Agreement, ideally met Xcel Energy’s needs. “SunPower had the lowest-priced bid of any company taking part in the solicitation, which would help us get the necessary approval from our utilities commission. SunPower’s technology met all of our criteria as well, so with the addition of a Power Purchase Agreement we were able to come to a good resolution,” Kawakami said.
Third-Party Ownership Makes Project Viable
SunPower brought together MetLife and John Hancock Financial Services as third-party owners of the new solar PV park. The project builds upon the more than $1 billion that MetLife has already invested in renewable energy projects. John Hancock Financial Services maintains a portfolio of renewable energy financing that includes more than $2 billion of projects in the U.S. and Canada. Said Kawakami,“This agreement guarantees the project’s future, and has made it easier for Xcel Energy to add more solar power to our mix of energy resources.”