Big steel goes big solar
A deal between Xcel Energy and steelmaker EVRAZ includes the building of a 240 MW solar project near the company’s Rocky Mountain Steel mill in Pueblo, Colorado. This is by far the largest behind-the-meter solar project pv magazine staff has heard of to date.
When we reference behind-the-meter solar, we are inevitably talking mostly about rooftop solar. This is either solar on homes, typically in the 3-10 kilowatt range, or on businesses, which can get up to the megawatt range for particularly large facilities like warehouses.
However, yesterday Xcel Energy and steel maker EVRAZ signed a deal which includes a solar project that could redefine the scope of behind-the-meter solar. The long-term electricity contract will feature the construction of a 240 MW solar plant on EVRAZ’s property in Pueblo near the Rocky Mountain Steel plant.
While the exact design is not known at this time, with the kinds of PV modules typically deployed at large-scale plants in the 300-420 watt range, this means as many as 800,000 solar panels. However, unlike other solar projects of this scale, Xcel filings suggest that this one will feed Rocky Mountain Steel directly and will be under the state’s net metering statute.
This is more than an order of magnitude larger than the largest net-metered solar facility that pv magazine has heard of to date. Many states have limits on the capacity of projects that can qualify for net metering, but in Colorado this is expressed as a percentage of the customer’s demand, leaving open the possibility of enormous projects for large electricity consumers.
Xcel has described the project as “key” to the deal, and it is apparent that the solar plant is not only groundbreaking for its scale as a behind-the-meter project, but is also enabling heavy industry to remain and expand in Colorado.