IBM will be installing a six-megawatt solar farm near their campus in Boulder, Colorado. They’ll be working on the project with Xcel Energy and NextEra Energy Resources. It’s a move that coincides with Boulder’s goal of becoming 100 percent renewable by 2030. Notably, it will be the biggest photovoltaic system in the area.
The six-megawatt solar array will occupy 54 acres of IBM’s facility in Gunbarrel and will create 9.5 million kilowatt-hours annually. For perspective, that’s enough generated energy to supply over 1,000 homes in Colorado. It’s expected to be completed by the end of 2018, adding to the 25 megawatts of solar capacity that’s currently in the Boulder area. Their goal is to hit 100 megawatts by 2030.
“We’re excited about this project,” Brody Wilson, IBM’s Boulder Site Energy Coordinator, told the Left Hand Valley Courier. “[Especially] because this is a watershed moment that it can happen and it will be cash flow positive in the first year.”
IBM’s new solar farm of this scale has been in the works for over three years. Ground-mounted solar panels will be installed, and even though it will be taking up farmland, there will still be vegetation around their system. No trees will be removed in the process of setting up the massive solar array. Wilson added that IBM will continue to monitor ways to conserve energy “from...light fixtures to cooling data centers.”
NextEra Energy Resources is developing the solar PV panels for the project and has already created three gigawatts worth of capacity throughout the United States. They expect to add up to 1.3 additional gigawatts by the end of 2018. Xcel Energy is the utility company behind the project and is planning to expand their renewable footprint in Colorado.
Xcel has created the Large Solar Rewards program to give projects to companies that send in the most competitive bid. They awarded NextEra with the IBM project as they had the lowest bid for the six megawatts. Over the next two years, Xcel will be offering 10 megawatts and 14 megawatts in the new program, respectively.
The utility company expects that 55 percent of their energy will come from renewable sources by 2026 in Colorado. At the moment, their portfolio in the state currently sits at round 30 percent. IBM said in 2016 that just over 20 percent of their energy at all 18 locations comes from sustainable methods.
Boulder is working on creating their own municipal utility company that focuses more on renewable sources. They’re still attempting to take Xcel’s local assets to make it happen, but IBM argued back in August that it “would not provide the security and reliability that...[IBM] needs to know is guaranteed.”