Lightsource bp, Xcel Energy and EVRAZ North America, announced the launch of the 300-megawatt Bighorn Solar project in Colorado. The project should help reduce emissions and support more than 1,000 jobs by creating the world’s first steel mill powered almost entirely by solar energy.
The project, which brings $285 million in investment in energy infrastructure, is the largest on-site solar facility in the U.S. dedicated to a single customer. It occupies the space of 1,800 acres that belongs to EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel property in Pueblo.
EVRAZ is Xcel Energy’s largest retail electric customer in Colorado and one of Pueblo’s largest employers. The deal for fixed-rate power gives the company the necessary and predictable electricity prices it needs to stay in Pueblo, keeping more than 1,000 jobs in the local community.
More than 750,000 solar panels provide the plant’s electricity, which almost entirely covers its annual demand.
“This project proves that even hard-to-abate sectors like steel can be decarbonized when companies come together with innovative solutions,” said Kevin Smith, chief executive officer of Lightsource bp, Americas, in the statement.
The solar power allows the mill to produce some of the world’s greenest steel and steel products. The plant already recycles scrap metal to produce new steel products, including some of the world’s most sustainably manufactured rail.
The Bighorn Solar project is currently generating electricity and feeding into the grid. It will be fully operational in November. The project was financed by owner and operator Lightsource bp. Xcel Energy offtakes the electricity under a 20-year power purchase agreement that supplies EVRAZ with clean and renewable power. Furthermore, the project will allow Xcel Energy to avoid 433,770 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
“This is an exciting day for us at Xcel Energy. Working together with Lightsource bp and EVRAZ North America, we’re creating innovative solutions for our customers while developing new solar energy resources in Colorado,” said Bob Frenzel, president and chief executive officer of Xcel Energy.
Lightsource bp is the petroleum giant’s 50-50 renewables venture. The start of operations shows how traditional commodities giants like BP or Evraz are making moves to continue business relationships and structures while also moving to carbon-free production. And, understandably, they also don’t forget to mention the side benefits of job retention (or creation) that come with both renewables and new industry.