Xcel sticks us with green tab

I’m angry. Outraged! Coloradans were sold a bill of goods in 2004. Their primary supplier of electricity – Xcel Energy – has apparently been co-opted by a movement that will cost Colorado families untold millions of dollars and cheat the state out of who knows how many good jobs. And the gutless Xcel? It burnishes its image cost-free: the regulators have to give it whatever rate increases it needs for happily playing along with nonsensical policies. Want solar? Wind? Biomass? Carbon caps? Fine, suckers, we’ll be happy to just add those to your electricity bills!

Vincent Carroll’s recent column, “Nuclear’s new allure,” prompted me to write about an energy cost inquiry I made last year that should have taken 15 minutes, maximum. It remains incomplete and has nearly turned into an investigation.

Since early 2007, Xcel has bragged about a solar array in Denver’s Coors Field. Xcel’s ads report the system produces enough electricity to offset that used to operate the Rockies’ scoreboard. Yeah, just the scoreboard. Not the stadium lights and all the rest. About 14,000 kilowatt hours (KWH) per year.

Fourteen thousand KWH is produced in 13 seconds by the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix.

My cost inquiry? I wanted only to find out how much the Coors Field solar system cost – the price someone paid to be sweet, lovable and green. Should be pretty simple, no?

My inquiry went first to Xcel, which said I’d have to contact the Rockies. The Rockies said I’d have to contact the stadium authority. The stadium authority acted as if it didn’t even know what I was calling about. One statement among my files, obtained from a source at Xcel and embedded below, indicates the Rockies purchased the system, which “will inspire hundreds of thousands of fans per year.” Another, also embedded below, indicates that rebates from Xcel helped defray the Rockies’ cost. Yet another says it’s a Rockies-Xcel partnership. Who cares? All I want to know is how much it cost, which remains – to me, at least – a well-guarded secret.

On September 5, The Denver Post carried an column, ”Expect compromise on energy,” by former Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler (oops, she now carries the title “ambassador” according to the bio on her website). In her piece, Madame Ambassador lauds Xcel for its recent turnaround to embrace 2004’s Amendment 37. She also cites the high and rising amount of energy used around the world and asks, “Where will all this energy come from?” Her answer, “Only solar power has the promise to supply massive amounts of energy …” with a caveat about making it more efficient.

Despite her ignorant omission of nuclear, I thought Schoettler could at least get my Coors Field solar cost question answered quickly, so I wrote to her. Shortly I had an e-mail from Joe Fuentes at Xcel, who said he didn’t have the information but had “some calls out.” He also wondered why I had asked, and I sent a responsive reply.

That was nearly a month ago. A follow-up inquiry this morning brought this from Fuentes: “I think this is a deal where you need check [sic] with the contractor. We didn't pay to play.” Isn’t this the step on the merry-go-round where I got on?

Amendment 37 so prized by Schoettler requires Xcel and other Colorado electricity suppliers to meet certain milestones in employing renewable energy resources to produce the electric power they sell. “Eligible renewable energy resources,” according to Amendment 37, “are solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectricity with a nameplate rating of 10 megawatts or less. … A fuel cell using hydrogen derived from these eligible resources is also an eligible electric generation technology. Fossil and nuclear fuels and their derivatives are not eligible resources.” (Emphasis added.)

I don’t know anyone who opposes solar, wind and the others in concept. However, cost being of no small importance to most consumers, why won’t Xcel see that we get an answer to my question?

(Sorry, slight correction needed on the above "no one." Though radio, TV and robocalls are full of T. Boone Pickens promoting wind power, an article in the July 21, 2008 Newsweek issue concludes with this Pickens admission: "There are no turbines on my ranch, because I think they are ugly.")

By the way, enough nuclear fuel has already been mined and refined to generate all our electricity for hundreds of years using breeder reactors. Perhaps Ambassador Schoettler can tell us why nuclear was specifically banned from the Amendment 37 renewables mix.

On second thought, one really needn’t ask; Amendment 37 was sold to Coloradans by a political movement that pretty much began 40 or more years ago with opposition to nuclear power. Generally the same ilk that now also opposes development of Colorado’s enormous shale oil resources which, of course, are also excluded.

======================================= Below are the three mutually contradictory Coors Field accounts as communicated to the author in an e-mail from Joe Fuentes of Xcel.

(Version 1) This 10 kW PV system is the first commercial scale grid-tie PV system in any major league stadium. Utilizing SunPower all black 215 watt modules, this system is designed to produce more energy per year than the scoreboard consumes. This system was specified by Xcel Energy and purchased by the Colorado Rockies. An IPS custom all black racking system seamlessly integrates the modules into the stadium structure. This solar system will inspire hundreds of thousands of fans per year.



(Version 2) DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies announced today that beginning on Opening Day, Monday, April 2, 2007, 46 solar panels have been installed to provide power at Coors Field. The solar installation, the first in Coors Field history, is a result of a partnership with the Rockies and Xcel Energy.

The 9.89 kilowatt solar array, installed by Independent Power Systems, will produce over 14,000 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to offset the consumption of the Rockpile LED board over one year. In the walkway just under the system, a flat-panel monitoring system will show fans the real time consumption of the Rockpile LED board as well as the real time energy production from the solar array.

Fans will also be able to learn more about solar energy throughout the season at an educational display inside the ballpark. Xcel Energy and the Colorado Rockies will also provide energy and money saving tips to fans during the game.


================================ (Version 3) http://investors.sunpowercorp.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=238809

Solar Power Raises the Score for the Colorado Rockies Coors Field Celebrates First Utility-Scale Solar Power Electric System in a Major League Ballpark

DENVER, April 20, 2007 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX News Network/ -- This weekend, the Colorado Rockies will take on the San Diego Padres at home under a solar-powered scoreboard. The new 9.9 kilowatt solar electric system, which was installed by Independent Power Systems as a result of a partnership between the Rockies and Xcel Energy, is being celebrated on Earth Day, April 22. Comprised of 46 solar panels from SunPower Corporation (Nasdaq: SPWR), it is the first commercial- scale solar electric power system to be installed in a Major League Baseball ballpark.

The new system covers an area of 616 square feet and will produce more than 14,000 kilowatt hours of energy, enough to offset energy consumption by the Rockies' 'Rockpile' LED scoreboard for over a year. A flat-panel monitoring system shows fans at the ballpark real time system performance and scoreboard energy use, and the same data is available on-line at http://www.solarips.com/coors.

"This solar project delivers on the Colorado promise of the 'New Energy Economy' that I have been speaking about all over the state," said Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. "I congratulate the Rockies for their leadership and call upon Major League Baseball, the NFL, and stadium owners throughout the nation to follow the example we've set by deploying solar at Coors Field."

Independent Power Systems, a SunPower Premier Dealer, designed and installed the system in two weeks, just in time for the Rockies' season opener. "We designed the system to ensure that no glare from the solar panels will reach players on the field," said Independent Power Systems President Tony Boniface. "SunPower solar panels were the perfect choice for this project because they offer the highest efficiency on the market."

"Solar power is an essential component of our global energy mix, and companies such as Independent Power Systems and Xcel Energy are doing their part to ensure that it is an easy, affordable option for home and commercial use," said Tom Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower. "The Rockies have distinguished their organization as a leader, by bringing clean, renewable energy to a great American sport."

"We were pleased to partner with the Rockies on this project," said Pieter Leenhouts, director of strategic marketing at Xcel Energy. "This Earth Day, Rockies fans can celebrate their team's commitment to helping take America to a new level of energy independence."

Solar rebates from Xcel Energy helped offset the cost of the system for the Rockies. Similar rebates are available to both commercial and residential customers of Xcel Energy.

About Independent Power Systems

Independent Power Systems is a solar electric engineering and installation company in the Rocky Mountains. Based in Boulder, CO, the company has been installing renewable energy systems for 11 years in residential, commercial, and remote environments. To view projects please visit http://www.solarips.com

About SunPower

SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR) designs, manufactures and markets high- performance solar electric technology worldwide. SunPower's high-efficiency solar cells and panels generate up to 50 percent more power per unit area than conventional solar technologies and have a uniquely attractive, all-black appearance. For more information on SunPower please visit the SunPower website at http://www.sunpowercorp.com. SunPower is a majority-owned subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: CY).

SunPower is a registered trademark of SunPower Corp. PowerLight is a registered trademark of PowerLight Corp. Cypress is a registered trademark of Cypress Semiconductor Corp. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

SOURCE SunPower Corporation

Barton Churchill of Independent Power Systems, +1-303-443-0115, bchurchill@solarips.com; or Ingrid Ekstrom of SunPower Corporation, +1-510-868-1368, ingrid.ekstrom@sunpowercorp.com http://www.sunpowercorp.com Copyright (C) 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved