The Sun Mountain Solar is an operational 293MW solar farm located in Pueblo, Colorado, in the US. The project, located south of Pueblo City Center, is Lightsource bp’s second large-scale solar project in the city.

The company’s first Pueblo solar project is the 300MW Bighorn Solar farm, which powers the EVRAZ Rocky Mountain steel mill.

The two projects will contribute $48m in property tax payments to Pueblo throughout their lifespan.

In December 2021, Lightsource bp mobilised construction on the Sun Mountain Solar project. The solar farm began commercial operations in February 2023.

The Sun Mountain Solar increased Lightsource bp’s investment in Colorado’s clean power infrastructure to more than $500m and state-wide operating solar assets to nearly 600MW.

Sun Mountain Project details

The Sun Mountain Solar Farm included the installation of 636,990 ultra-low carbon solar panels with smart solar trackers.

The solar panels were installed across more than 1,700 acres of land, making it one of the largest solar facilities in Colorado.

The solar project will have a capacity of 293MW of direct current (DC) or 200MW of alternating current (AC).

The project created around 300 jobs during the construction phase. Around 150 workers from Bighorn Solar were involved in constructing Sun Mountain, while 150 additional workers were recruited from the local community.

It also created hundreds of jobs in the US across the supply chain and supported domestic manufacturers.

The project is delivering clean power to more than 53,000 homes, thereby trimming more than 400,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. This is equivalent to taking over 87,000 fuel burning cars off the road per year.

Power Purchase Agreement

Lightsource bp has signed a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with US-based regulated electric and natural gas delivery company Xcel Energy regarding the renewable power generated from the project.

Xcel Energy provides the energy to power homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states.

The agreement supports Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan which aims to deliver 55% renewable energy to the grid and trim carbon emissions by 60% by 2026. The energy company also plans to provide electricity from nearly 80% renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions by 85% by 2030.

It will also help Colorado to achieve its clean energy goal of reducing state-wide emissions by 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050.

Contractors Involved

In February 2022, McCarthy Building Companies won the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the Sun Mountain Solar Farm Project. McCarthy was also involved in building Lightsource bp’s Bighorn Solar project.

The ultra-low carbon solar panels for the solar farm were delivered by Arizona-based First Solar, while New Mexico-based Array Technologies delivered the smart solar trackers.

Financing partners

In December 2021, Lightsource bp closed a $376m multi-project financing package. The package was intended to support multiple solar projects including the 293MWDC Sun Mountain Solar.

The Bank of America provided the tax equity investment for the portfolio. This marked the lender’s fourth transaction with Lightsource bp.

Debt for the portfolio was provided by ING Capital, HSBC Bank USA, NatWest, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC).

The balance of the tax equity was invested by Lightsource bp.

Sustainable initiatives

Lightsource bp has installed and conserved around 3,000 acres of shortgrass prairie at the Sun Mountain and Bighorn solar farms.

The move will help in creating habitat for wildlife as well as strengthen the sites’ capability to sequester carbon.

Overall, 3,051 acres of shortgrass prairie will grow on and surrounding the two sites.

According to research data, the on-site prairie habitat will remove and store around 36,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the first 25 years of the two projects.