FORT COLLINS — Two Colorado-based solar energy companies have helped Colorado State University get closer to its goal of 100% renewable electricity with the installation of 17 of 20 sites on four CSU campuses over the past two years.
Beginning in 2020, Namaste Solar Electric Inc., an employee-owned cooperative, co-developed, designed and constructed the 4.25 megawatts (DC) of solar capacity across the 20 sites. Solaris Energy, trade name for Solaris Investment Group LLC, was co-developer and initial owner of the project, providing the legal structuring, financing and development oversight.
Standard Solar is the project’s long-term owner and operator.
“Our goal was to develop and finance the project in a way that provided long term operational expense savings to CSU with minimal upfront cost, allowing the university to put those savings toward students and innovation,” Nick Perugini, vice president and co-owner of Solaris Energy, said in a written statement. “We’re proud to be a part of a project that proves the financially beneficial solar possibilities today and will remain a shining example for generations to come.”
CSU will receive solar electricity through a long-term power-purchase agreement. This fixes the solar electricity rate charge to CSU for 28 years, providing a hedge against the rising price of fossil-fuel electricity, according to a press statement on the project.
“We will be paying the same for the power coming out of those solar arrays in 2050 as we do today,” said Carol Dollard, an energy engineer for CSU who helps manage the design and installation of renewable energy systems. “It’s a great investment for the university, and it allows us to get solar on our buildings at a very low financial risk.”
CSU will retain ownership of Renewable Energy Credits attributed to the new systems, which will allow the portfolio of projects to be a major contributor toward CSU’s commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2040. Owning RECs is certified proof that renewable energy is being used without having to directly own the solar installations, according to the statement.
“When institutions like CSU work with local businesses such as Namaste Solar it amplifies the positive impacts to the local community,” said Jason Sharpe, CEO and co-owner of Namaste Solar. “This project supported 42 permanent jobs at Namaste Solar alone. In all, this multi-year project employed nearly 70 people and involved 16 companies, most of them being local. This benefits local families, the Fort Collins community and Colorado’s economy.”
The project is set to be completed in early 2023. The sites include ground mounts and rooftop installations such as Johnson Family Equine Hospital, Laurel Village, Richardson Design Center, and the Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center. Combined, the systems will use 10,628 total panels and are expected to annually produce the equivalent of powering 827 homes with solar electricity throughout the system’s lifetime.