Colorado University Among Nation’s Top Four Public Universities for Solar Power

Colorado State University is in the top four nationally for solar power at major public research universities, according to a new report released Thursday by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, known as AASHE.

AASHE also lists Colorado State as having two of the top 10 largest photovoltaic installations at a four-year university. Overall, the university ranked sixth among all public and private colleges and universities. To read the full report, go to

Colorado State hosts about 5,500 kilowatts of power on its campus, which is largely concentrated on a 30-acre plant on the Foothills Campus on the western edge of Fort Collins. On an annual basis, the plant produces about 8.5 million kilowatt hours of electrical energy, which is equivalent to supply power for about 1,000 homes for a year. Put another way: The plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by more than 6 million kilograms – the equivalent of removing more than 520 cars off the road each year.

Just last week, Colorado State announced it had achieved the highest score among 129 reporting universities participating in a national survey of higher education institutions dedicated to sustainability measures – the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Reporting System known as STARS.

In April, Princeton Review recognized Colorado State on its list of green colleges and universities; CSU had the highest green score among Colorado institutions.

"Colorado State is committed to building sustainability into our campus environment in everything from using recyclables in our dining halls to building a biomass boiler on our Foothills Campus," said Amy Parsons, vice president for Operations. "We’re saving money by improving our energy efficiency and we’ve been able make some projects into teaching and learning opportunities for students."

Colorado State was the first major public research institution in Colorado to install a major solar facility and currently sits with such company as the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and the U.S. Air Force for solar capacity, according to AASHE. Colorado State has five smaller photovoltaic installations on the main campus on such buildings as the parking garage and the College of Engineering building.

In a separate project, Colorado State University-Pueblo, dedicated a new 1.2 MW solar array in 2008.

In Fort Collins, the university’s Foothills Campus solar power system is funded by a partnership that includes regional utility Xcel Energy and Sun Edison. The project, owned and operated by Sun Edison, uses a Power Purchase Agreement structure that leverages tax credits and incentives. The PPA structure enables CSU to purchase electricity produced by the plant at a fixed rate for 20 years, providing CSU with protection against future rate increases without any upfront costs to the university.

Colorado State’s project, part of the Xcel Energy Solar Rewards program, received a rebate to offset construction costs. This project generates renewable energy credits that Xcel Energy purchases in support of Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, which requires large utilities to generate 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Sun Edison, formerly FRV, built the first phase in 2009 with design and installation by AMEC, an international engineering and construction company. Array Technologies built the Wattsun single-axis tracking system to maximize solar electrical generation by following the path of the sun during the day for greater efficiency and energy production. The second phase was added in 2010. Installed by GES, this phase utilizes fixed tilt arrays and brings the entire capacity of the site to 5,300 kW.