Launch of Cameo solar project celebrated

Xcel Energy’s solar plant in Cameo.

Xcel Energy’s coal-fired power plant at Cameo and a demonstration solar project that became operational at the site this spring are likely to shut down at the end of this year, according to an Xcel official.

That doesn’t rule out the possibility, though, of solar and other types of energy production occurring at the site in the future, according to Xcel’s vice president of strategic technologies, Mary Fisher.

“No firm decisions” have been made about the site’s future after the scheduled closures, Fisher said, but alternatives to the 53-year-old coal plant will be considered, she said.

An attempt to keep the coal plant and the solar installation going failed in the Legislature earlier this year. Rep. Steve King and Sen. Josh Penry, both Grand Junction Republicans, presented a bill that would have created a moratorium on closing any Colorado power plants blending coal and solar technology until July 1, 2012. The bill timed out on second reading in May.

Fisher said Xcel and partner Abengoa Solar hope to learn as much as they can from the integrated solar project, which uses solar power to generate steam and help decrease the amount of coal needed to produce energy at the plant. Solar troughs built next to the plant have been operational since April and used on a daily basis since June. Xcel hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the project’s progress Wednesday.

The solar troughs are reusable and could be moved off the site and hooked up to another plant that uses fossil fuels after the demonstration period ends, Fisher said. Because the troughs help generate steam and not power directly, the troughs wouldn’t likely be of much use at Cameo once the coal-fired plant closes, Fisher said.

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said at Wednesday’s event he’d like to see the solar troughs stay in Mesa County if at all possible. If that’s not possible, he’s open to other ideas.

“Mesa County government and, I believe, most of the citizens in this community want to facilitate Xcel with a variety of options for this property,” he said.


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