Cameo Power Station To Be Test Ground For Solar Integration

By: Aaron Luna Email
By: Aaron Luna Email

Mesa County will soon be home to the only coal power plant in the United States that incorporates solar energy to produce electricity.

Xcel broke ground today at the Cameo Power Station where a four megawatt solar instillation will be built. Officials here say the whole project should be completed in the fall.

The ceremonial ground breaking at the Cameo Power Station in the DeBeque Canyon marks the start of a very unique project for Xcel energy. David Wilks, Energy Supply president for Xcel, says the cameo station will be a testing ground for future development. "It represents a kind of breakthrough for us in a new technology." Wilks goes on to say this is the first step for Xcel toward a cleaner energy future. "It's the first in the world and really the purpose of this project is to prove it. And that's what we intend to do."

Xcel partnered with Abengoa Solar to install the solar array. Officials say the Cameo Station is the perfect place to test this technology since the station is already slated to close by the end of 2010.

Hank Price, the Vice President of Technical Development for Abengoa Solar says, "This is an opportunity to test the solar on a plant where there's kind of a low risk of failure." The
Cameo Power plant burns coal to turn water into steam, running turbines to generate electricity.

The thousands of mirrors used in this project will help heat the water before it enters the plant, meaning the plant will burn less coal to get the water to the needed temperature, saving 900 tons of coal each year.

Randy Larson, Project Manager for Xcel says, "In the big scheme of things its very small compared to the total amount of coal that we burn." In fact the coal saved in Cameo is only half of a percent of the station’s yearly use. But saving coal at the Cameo station is not Xcel's ultimate goal. Larson says, "We'll be taking a lot of data seeing if we get the solar input that we estimated." That way Xcel will know if applying solar to existing power plants to improve efficiency and cut down on co2 emissions will be worth the investment. "We anticipate we are going to improve the performance by 3–5 percent," says, Larson.

The whole project is scheduled to last for a year, after that they're going to tear it down, six months later Cameo Power Plant will also be torn down.

The project costs $4.5 million. Officials say the construction of the solar installation will generate 25 temporary local construction jobs.

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