Xcel reaches settlement, will increase Colorado solar power

Minnesota-based Xcel Energy, one of Colorado’s largest power providers, announced Tuesday that it has reached a settlement with community solar developers and plans to work with them to add another 60 megawatts of community solar power to the state’s grid.

In a statement earlier this week, Xcel representatives said the company will accept project proposals from three community solar developers -- Boulder-based Clean Energy Collective, Pennsylvania-based Community Energy Inc. and Denver-based SunShare -- with which the company has been involved in a legal dispute since 2014.

"This settlement is a prime example of Xcel Energy's efforts to deliver to its customers more choices for their energy needs, including our low-income and non-profit customers," David Eves, president of Xcel's Public Service Co. of Colorado, said in a statement.

In 2014, Xcel was planning to expand its Solar Rewards Community pilot program -- a system of 25 solar gardens generating around 18 megawatts -- but the community solar developers with which it was working had hoped for faster growth. Clean Energy Collective, Community Energy and Sunshare filed a complaint with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission later that year that pushing for the system to expand by 30 megawatts. This settlement marks an end to that dispute as well as Xcel’s commitment to expand an additional 30 megawatts for 2016.

“The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that a megawatt of solar power can supply enough energy for 164 homes,” according to a recent story in the Denver Post. “Based on that, the Xcel deal would supply enough power for about 9,840 homes.”

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission, a division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, approved the settlement, which stipulates that Xcel will increase its rates by about 2 percent to pay for the improvements over the next three years.

“I believe this settlement lays a strong foundation for a low-carbon future at a reasonable cost, which is what the legislature intended,” according to PUC Chairman Joshua Epel.
The settlement also included a commitment by Xcel to own up to 4 megawatts of community solar gardens to serve low-income residents and nonprofits across the state.