To keep pace with technological advancements and to address emerging issues, we participate in a number of successful, collaborative efforts. Through partnerships, we are able to join with others to learn about, test and promote technologies that offer the greatest promise for solving environmental concerns and for providing customers with more reliable, lower cost and cleaner energy in the future.
After celebrating its grand opening in 2011, the Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) in Aurora, Colo., is now a world-class facility for demonstrating and validating some of the most advanced solar technologies available. There are seven founding and sponsoring members that occupy 90 percent of the 74-acre site and have invested about $30 million in the SolarTAC.
Xcel Energy recognized early the benefit to our customers and became the original founding member. We are currently testing two battery storage projects at SolarTAC. The first uses a large 1.5-megawatt battery to smooth fluctuations that can occur with large-scale installations when solar output changes rapidly due to cloud cover or other factors. In the second project, we are examining how smaller battery technology can mitigate the effects of high solar penetration in residential areas. A 25-kilowatt battery is connected to four simulated homes powered by photovoltaic panels, modeling solar integration in a neighborhood. We also are working with the Electric Power Research institute and its members on a smart inverter project that will improve the integration of solar power.
In addition to our own testing projects, technologies improved at the site have directly benefitted customers. Two different solar companies testing technologies at SolarTAC have incorporated improvements gained at the site into several large solar installations that currently supply power to our system.
Read more about SolarTAC and our battery storage projects.
Energy Innovation Corridor
Xcel Energy helped to launch the Energy Innovation Corridor (EIC) project in 2009 along with more than 20 diverse partners, including the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, three other utility companies, the state of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota and numerous chambers of commerce, nonprofits and businesses. This first-of-its kind clean energy and transportation model focuses on advancements in four areas: renewable energy, transportation, energy efficiency and smart-grid technologies. The EIC extends along the 11-mile Central Corridor light-rail transit line between St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. In 2014, the new light-rail Green Line began serving the Twin Cities as part of the effort, with one stop along its route the more energy efficient and freshly renovated historic Union Depot.
The EIC has quickly become a showcase for clean energy and transportation technologies, with multiple solar energy systems helping to power buildings along the corridor and dozens of energy efficiency and clean transportation projects now in use. One project that Xcel Energy is spearheading as part of the EIC is SmartVAR. Our SmartVAR pilot incorporates sophisticated controls and real-time information to intelligently monitor and control system energy losses at a distribution level through the use of capacitor banks in the field. The effort is demonstrating significant energy savings, improved system efficiency and related emissions reductions. It has been so successful that we are embarking on a four-year effort to install the technology on the distribution system that serves our entire Minnesota service territory.
From 2010 through the end of 2013, EIC projects have collectively saved about 321 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, 12 million therms of natural gas and avoided nearly 1.25 million tons of carbon dioxide.