Solar-powered steel mill blazes trail for green energy transition


Later this week, a huge new solar array will be officially launched in High Plains, southern Colorado. And supporters of global energy transformation have new beacons for their purposes.

Developed by Lightsource BP, just outside Pueblo, a railroad-focused city in the western United States, the $ 285 million bighorn solar array will be one of the largest solar facilities east of the Rocky Mountains. increase.

According to Evraz, a Russian mining conglomerate that owns the city’s 140-year-old steel mill, the power it produces helps Pueblo make “the cleanest steel and steel products in the world.”

The Big Horn is launched in the same way that the global energy crisis sparks a debate about how quickly the world should or should not replace fossil fuels with renewables.

For developers, including the oil super major BP, this project is a brilliant example of energy conversion. For the people of Pueblo, known for their crimes and high levels of poverty, it may be easier: Bighorn keeps their jobs.

“Pueblo is an important story of energy transformation,” said Morgan Basilian, a former EU climate negotiator who is now the director of the Pain Institute at the Colorado School of Mines in Boulder, the city’s experience.

“Gang violence and poverty are still problematic, but people are paving the way.”

The array itself employs only 4-5 crew members to monitor 750,000 panels, but cheap electricity supports Evraz’s $ 500 million plan to expand the plant. We already employ 1,000 people and will need an additional 300 as we add facilities to build longer tracks.

Without cheap solar power, Russian companies would have moved their businesses elsewhere.

“These are good, union-paying jobs,” said Nick Gladisar, the mayor of Pueblo, where both his father and grandfather worked in the factory. The possibility of a factory closure approached the city a few years ago. Now some certainty has arrived.

“Steel workers have a guaranteed price for energy,” Gradsar said. “They don’t have to worry about coal prices going up and down.”

300 MW of electricity from the 750,000 panels of the array will be supplied to the expansion of the Pueblo steelworks

300 MW of electricity from the 750,000 panels of the array will be supplied to the expansion of the Pueblo steelworks © Derek Brower

Lightsource BP, Utility Xcel Energy, and Evraz do not disclose the commercial terms of the contract to support the PV facility located on Evraz’s land near the steelworks.

However, Lightsource BP can generate electricity for less than $ 0.03 per kilowatt hour, well below the price of electricity from fossil fuel sources, said Kevin Smith, CEO of the company.

The company sells electricity to Xcel under a 20-year contract, which sells electricity “behind the meter” to Evraz.

Electricity powers nearly 90% of the energy required by the factory, including an electric arc furnace that pulsates in the heart and melts over 1 million tonnes of scrap metal annually.

Alice Jackson, President of Xcel’s Colorado Business, said: , See Transactions.

The new project is in line with Xcel’s strategy announced four years ago, reducing CO2 pollution by 2030 and supplying only emission-free electricity by 2050.

The plan included an accelerated schedule of power outages at Colorado’s largest Comanche coal-fired power plant. Two of the three units will be closed by 2025, and the third will be phased out after 2030, decades earlier than planned.

For BP, which owns half of its light source BP, Bighorn emphasizes its strategic shift to clean energy, said David Roller, head of US operations for a British oil company. I am.

BP was well known in the United States for gas station, offshore drilling, and deepwater horizon oil spills last year, reducing crude oil production, reducing emissions, including rampant flaring in countries such as the United States and Iraq, and regenerating. We promised to start providing a lot of electricity.

“For those who are wondering what BP is doing, I think this is the best example of the transition we are experiencing,” Laura said.

“That’s what’s happening in Pueblo — the green economy,” he said. “Green power that recycles steel and runs it … It’s a noble green cycle. That’s what it is.”

The Bighorn project will generate the 8-10% profit that BP is seeking to fund new renewable energy assets. Lower than profits from oil and gas projects, but less volatile, Laura said.

Colorado, a state run by the Democratic Party but with deep conservative veins, is heading federal while the U.S. Congress is fighting over President Joe Biden’s proposal to decarbonize U.S. power by 2035. Regardless of gender, and despite some local opposition, it appears to be moving forward.

“I work for the people of Pueblo, not the people of Paris,” wrote Lauren Boebert, a Republican House member of the district, including Pueblo. twitter Earlier this year. She also opposes the “war with coal.” Bobert did not respond to a request for comment.

Still, the development of new clean energy is budding around her district. With 120 MW of PV facilities going online in 2016, Xcel is installing an additional 650 MW of PV capacity elsewhere in Pueblo County, which will be online next year.

The world’s largest wind tower manufacturing plant, owned by South Korea’s CS Wind, is located in the southeastern part of the city.

Analysts say the momentum behind this transition continues despite political opposition or slow federal progress in advancing Biden’s decarbonization program.

“For Pueblo, this is about maintaining work, resources, and social structure,” said Basilian. “And that’s happening despite the lack of support from the district Republicans.”

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