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SunPower to build new Colorado solar power plant

Sandy Shore
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” SunPower Corp. said Tuesday it will build a 17-megawatt solar plant in southern Colorado and sell the power generated to Xcel Energy Inc.

It is the latest in a handful of agreements announced by solar energy manufacturers and utilities as more states adopt standards requiring a percentage of electricity to be produced from renewable resources.

The plant will be built on a parcel near a SunEdison 8.2-megawatt plant in the Alamosa area about 160 miles south of Denver near the Colorado-New Mexico border, SunPower said.

San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower plans to hire about 200 workers for the construction phase and said the plant will be the second-largest high-efficiency solar PV power plant in North America when completed in 2010.

Xcel put a bid out for solar power last year to help meet a Colorado mandate requiring it to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

Xcel currently produces about 10 percent from solar, wind and other renewable resources, spokesman Mark Stutz said.

Financial terms of the lease agreement with SunPower were not disclosed.

Last week, First Solar Inc. completed its purchase of unfinished photovoltaic projects from OptiSolar and said it would issue 3 million shares, or dilution of about 3.5 percent for current shares, to finance the deal. Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar agreed to pay about $400 million in stock for the assets.

In February, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said it will develop a series of photovoltaic projects in its northern and central California service areas to generate up to 500 megawatts of electricity, about 1.3 percent of its overall demand.

The series of announcements indicate utilities are becoming more active as renewable energy mandates begin to take effect, Janco Partners analyst Vijay Singh said.

“I think utilities, in general, have become a bright spot in the renewable energy space,” he said. “That’s where most of the hope is.”

However, he noted that financing is still tight, excess supply remains and demand is sluggish.

Shares of SunPower fell $1.52, or 6.2 percent, to $23.10, and shares of Minneapolis-based Xcel added 7 cents to $18.08 in afternoon trading.


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