In the crisp, early morning mountain air of Pueblo City, Colorado, the growl of excavators and backhoes is music to the ears of 300 local clean energy workers. The Bighorn Solar Project began construction in October, and hundreds of local Coloradans are busy preparing almost 1,600 acres of land for the installation of 750,000 bifacial solar panels.
Construction on the massive $285 million renewable energy project is expected to be completed on the 300MW solar farm by late 2021, and is projected to create $22 million in annual local tax revenue. Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy Colorado, shared: “We are excited to see Lightsource BP taking the next step toward building the Bighorn Solar project. This collaboration between Xcel Energy, EVRAZ North America, and Lightsource BP is proof that when innovative companies work together we can create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and support our communities and the environment.”
The solar installation is being built on EVRAZ North America’s Pueblo City steel mill and will ensure greater longevity for the company by keeping the 1,000 local steel mill jobs in the community. EVRAZ North America is one of the largest steel producers in the western hemisphere, and the Bighorn Solar Project is one of the largest solar projects in Colorado. EVRAZ will buy solar power from Xcel Energy Colorado for a fixed price over the next 20 years, allowing them to focus on investing in their workers and the community. Colorado Governor Jared Polis shared, “This collaborative project will not only bring more jobs to Pueblo but also supports Colorado’s goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2040. The EVRAZ steel mill is a staple of Pueblo’s incredible history and will now also serve as a pillar of our state’s clean energy future.”
Recently EVRAZ announced they were moving forward with plans to spend $480 million on improvements to their Pueblo City Mill making it “the most modern rail-rolling facility in North America,” according to The Pueblo Chieftain. The Bighorn Solar Project is expected to be operational in 12 to 14 months. Skip Herald, president and CEO of EVRAZ North America, shared, “We congratulate Lightsource BP on reaching this important milestone and are excited to see construction begin on the Bighorn solar project that will supply clean energy to EVRAZ Pueblo. EVRAZ Pueblo will be the first steel mill in North America to rely on solar power as we proudly use renewable energy to turn recycled scrap metal into new, clean steel, including the most sustainable rail in the world.”
The Bighorn Solar Project is expected to save 433,770 metric tons of CO2 every year––the equivalent of 92,100 vehicles being taken off the road. Moreover, the project will advance the Colorado Energy Plan by providing “55% renewable energy to the grid by 2026 and reduce carbon emissions by 60%, as well as Xcel Energy’s bold vision to deliver 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050,” reported The Denver Post.
Funding for the project highlights international equity finance partners such as Export Development Canada, Societe Generale, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and their support for the U.S. transition to renewable energy. “Partnership with these leading investment institutions enables us to work together to achieve our shared ambitions for a sustainable and profitable future,” shared Kevin Smith, CEO of the Americas for Lightsource BP. “With their support, along with that of our local partners, we’re materially benefiting the environment as well as Colorado’s economy – delivering affordable and clean energy that the world demands and needs.”
This renewable energy installation is an example of the future of American manufacturing. Moreover, it is an even greater example of how the transition to clean energy can create jobs throughout the country and provide Americans with income and experience needed to power the country.
Polis recited to local news authorities, “If you were wondering what a renewable energy future would look like, this is a great example.”