Colorado Utility Plans Technology Campus with Microgrid

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In an effort to prepare for ongoing shifts in the utility sector, Colorado Springs Utilities aims to build a 160-acre Advanced Technologies Campus that is set to include a microgrid platform.

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The campus, to be built in phases, would allow CSU to test new technologies, pilot projects and “proof of concepts” before they are deployed in the field, according to the public power utility.

CSU expects the campus to include a microgrid platform, a solar array, a hydrogen cell facility and a substation, according to an application filed in mid-November with a city zoning office. The site would also house aeroderivative combustion turbines.

The campus could also include laboratories to study power systems, cybersecurity, advanced metering infrastructure and home area networking, electric vehicles, distributed energy resources and situational awareness, according to a presentation on the planned campus.

The utility expects to issue a request for proposals in the first quarter next year for a firm to design the technology campus.

CSU eyes microgrid options

The planned technology campus comes as CSU is making major changes in its generation fleet and looking to develop microgrids.

The utility in September issued an RFP for a consultant to help develop a community microgrid and distributed generation plan. CSU expects the plan will make significant immediate, short-term and long-term contributions toward the utility’s clean energy goals and improvements to community resiliency. The RFP closed in late October.

CSU part of energy transition

At the same time, CSU is preparing to replace its coal-fired generation with renewables.

The utility’s board in late June approved an integrated resource plan that calls for retiring a 208-MW coal plant by 2023 and a 207-MW unit in 2030. The plan also calls for shuttering a 54-MW plant that burns natural gas and oil five years later. The utility’s power portfolio totals about 1,150 MW and the public power utility sells about 5 million MWh a year.

CSU plans to replace the fossil-fueled capacity with 500 MW of wind, 415 MW of battery store,150 MW of solar, 75 MW of demand-side management and 10 MW each of biomass and geothermal, according to the resource plan.

In September, CSU and juwi, a renewable energy company, signed a 17-year power purchase agreement for power from a 175-MW solar project combined with a 25-MW, four-hour battery energy storage system. The Pike solar farm is set to come online in 2023.

The utility aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the end of this decade and by 90% by 2050.

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