Xcel pins hopes for solar energy on Cameo plant

The Cameo Power Plant’s days as a coal-burning electricity generator will be over at the end of 2010, but it might have a longer life as a solar generator.

Under a plan approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Cameo will operate next year as a hybrid generator of electricity, using coal and solar power to heat water to steam, which is then used to generate electricity.

That experiment will last only through 2010, when coal no longer will be burned at the plant, said Tom Henley, spokesman for Xcel Energy, which owns it.

Xcel will spend $4.5 million to install and maintain the solar array, which is curved to concentrate the solar energy it gathers.

The telling issue about successful solar-power generation from Xcel’s perspective likely will turn on whether the solar array at the plant in De Beque Canyon produces more energy than the more familiar photovoltaic process, Henley said.

The 73-megawatt Cameo plant now serves about 5,500 customers. The solar test is expected to generate one megawatt, potentially serving hundreds of homes.


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