Colorado Springs Utilities will generate more than a fifth of its electricity with solar power after 150 megawatts of renewable energy are added to its portfolio, an addition the board of directors approved Wednesday afternoon.
The specifics of that upcoming purchase have yet to be determined, however, said John Romero, general manager of energy acquisition engineering and planning. The board’s decision gave him permission to negotiate projects that will provide the 150 megawatts of solar power and include battery storage.
Utilities sought bids for such projects in April and received proposals from eight different companies.
Now, Romero said he will contact different companies to negotiate their best and final offers and will likely update the board on his progress before the end of the year.
Once the 150 megawatts of solar power are added and running, Utilities will produce 21 percent of its electricity from solar power, Romero said. The 150-megawatt project is expected to be up and running by 2024.
One megawatt is enough to power about 315 homes for a year, said Utilities spokeswoman Amy Trinidad.
The board’s approval Wednesday touches on Utilities’ 2016 Electric Integrated Resource Plan, which set goals for the organization to produce a fifth of its energy through renewable means at no more than a 1 percent increase to the average electric bill by 2020.
Already this year, the board approved two solar array projects, totaling 95 megawatts, which boosted Utilities’ renewable portfolio from 9 to 15 percent at a 0.95 percent estimated impact on the average bill.
Without the battery storage, Utilities staff estimated the 150 megawatt purchase would boost that average bill increase to a total of 1.07 percent, Trinidad said. With the battery storage, that number is expected to increase slightly.
That slight increase over the 1 percent cap was significant to a few on council, however. Board members Don Knight and Andy Pico voted against the purchase.
“This proposal busts that cap,” Knight said to the board members supporting the purchase. “You’re going back on your promise to the ratepayers. This is an integrity issue.”
But board member Bill Murray said that increase is within a reasonable range of that cap.
Each percent added to the average residential bill would increase the bottom line by about 87 cents, Romero said.
Murray estimated that the increase would add another 14 cents on top of that cost. He and several others on the board noted that many ratepayers would accept a slight bill increase to boost Utilities’ renewable portfolio.
“This is the future,” board member Richard Skorman said. “This is getting to be more and more of a solution for community after community and we’re sitting her arguing over 13 cents. … We’re going to do something many people in our community want us to do. We are a citizen’s utility for this purpose.”