Clean Energy Partnerships
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 customers and became SolarTAC’s original founding member, an investment that has paid off. Several large-scale solar technologies fine-tuned at SolarTAC are now in commercial operation as part of arrays in New Mexico and Colorado producing more cost-effective and reliable solar power for our customers. Developers also have been able to make adjustments for cold weather conditions before installing technology in our service area.
Xcel Energy has a unique opportunity at SolarTAC to study solutions to solar integration in a real-world environment, separate from the system that serves customers. We have installed a community energy storage project that is testing a more cost-effective way to integrate solar power in areas with high solar production. Working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), we are testing a 25-kilowatt battery integrated with four small photovoltaic installations that simulate a neighborhood with multiple rooftop solar power systems.
In 2011, we installed a 1.5 megawatt battery provided by Younicos (formerly Xtreme Power) at SolarTAC to evaluate how energy storage can aid in operating a distribution system with energy from large-scale solar facilities. Solar energy produced by a nearby solar array onsite was channeled through the battery before going to the grid. The study concluded in 2014 and a final report was produced, which overviews how the project provided greater insight and understanding into the abilities of battery storage to integrate variable solar generation.
In addition to the testing work, several solar installations operating at SolarTAC are connected to the Xcel Energy electric system and serve our customers. Through agreements with other SolarTAC participants, we purchase nearly a megawatt of solar power produced at the site.
Read more about SolarTAC and our battery storage projects.
Energy Innovation Corridor
Xcel Energy helped launch the Energy Innovation Corridor 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 focused on advancements in four areas: renewable energy, transportation, energy efficiency and smart-grid technologies. The Energy Innovation Corridor extends along the 11-mile METRO Green Line light-rail transit route between St. Paul and Minneapolis. In 2014, the new METRO Green Line began serving the Twin Cities—with one stop along its route, the more energy efficient and freshly renovated historic Union Depot, which earned LEED® Gold certification and includes electric vehicle charging stations.
The Energy Innovation Corridor has quickly become a showcase for clean energy and transportation technologies. It includes many solar energy systems helping to power buildings and homes along the corridor, thousands of energy efficiency projects implemented, and clean transportation projects, including nearly 60 electric vehicle charging stations now in use.
One project that Xcel Energy spearheaded as part of the Energy Innovation Corridor was SmartVAR. The SmartVAR pilot incorporated sophisticated capacitor controls and real-time information to intelligently monitor and control capacitor banks on the distribution system. The pilot successfully demonstrated an improvement in system efficiency by reducing losses on the distribution system, resulting in carbon reductions and energy savings. Because of this success, we embarked on an effort to install the technology on the distribution system throughout our service territory in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. By the end of 2014, we had installed 1,356 SmartVAR capacitor controls across 58 substations, which we estimate will save 11.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and reduce peak capacity by about 86 megawatts. The project will continue through 2016.
The Energy Innovation Corridor reports collective results for the entire effort from 2010 through the end of 2014 as saving nearly 411 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 16.8 million therms of natural gas, as well as avoiding nearly 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Find full information about the Energy Innovation Corridor and project results.