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Holy Cross Energy And CMC Working Together On New Solar Project

Rendering of Ameresco Solar project in Spring Valley
Courtesy Ameresco Solar
A rendering of the solar array at CMC’s Spring Valley campus near Glenwood Springs. The 22 acres will produce over 5.38 megawatts of solar energy and house a 15-megawatt-hour battery.

Ameresco is set to begin construction early next month on a new solar project on the south side of Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus.

The project will produce 9 million kilowatt-hours annually, which is enough to power roughly 900 homes a year.

The generated electricity will enter Holy Cross Energy’s electrical grid, which serves homes from Parachute to Avon and most of the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It moves the needle slightly,” said Sam Whelan, Holy Cross’ manager of power supply. “But one of the things that’s unique about the project is that they partner with CMC and help the college meet their renewable goals as well.”

As part of the construction deal, CMC will receive renewable-energy credits from Holy Cross.

Sean Nesbitt, CMC's director of facilities, says these credits will offset any electricity used at the Spring Valley, Aspen and Edwards campuses.

“The renewable-energy credits, it’s kind of an official way of accounting for the amount of electricity used by the college,” Nesbitt said. “And we then are able to tie this to our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.”

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Halle Zander/Aspen Public Radio
A south-facing view of a portion of Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus where Ameresco Solar plans to build a large solar array. The facility would generate enough electricity to power 900 homes.

This project is comparable in size and power to the solar farm recently built in Woody Creek.

Spring Valley’s solar array will get Holy Cross 1% closer to its goal of providing 100% clean energy to its customers by 2030.

Whelan says Holy Cross also has bigger projects in development — including a 100-megawatt wind farm on the Eastern Plains — that will add 35% renewable energy to Holy Cross’ portfolio.

But the project at Spring Valley also includes a 15-megawatt-hour battery, which can store excess power during the day and discharge to customers at night when energy use is at its peak. This battery could cut costs for Holy Cross and its customers.

Ameresco’s director of project development, Geri Kantor, says Spring Valley is a great site for this type of project.

“It is not adjacent to any residential homeowners or other areas,” Kantor said. “It’s not very populated. It’s a fairly remote site. It’s generally fairly flat. There’s no endangered species or habitat. No wetlands. No flood plain. All of the features we tend to look for in a solar (photovoltaic) site.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife was originally concerned that the solar array would impact an important habitat for elk and mule deer. Ameresco has signed an agreement to pay for the clearing of another 23 acres nearby to replace this habitat.

Ameresco’s current timeline projects that the Spring Valley solar facility will begin generating electricity next spring.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct two errors. It's Sean Nesbitt, not Scott Nesbitt. And it's Ameresco, not Ameresco Solar.