State could lead solar output

Xcel seeks bids for renewable projects that could serve 150,000

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— Xcel Energy's plans to expand its use of renewable energy could make Colorado one of the world's largest solar producers.

On Friday, the company said it was seeking bids from companies to build solar projects that could produce 600 megawatts of power, enough to serve 150,000 customers.

Experts and industry leaders disagree about whether that much power could be produced by one large project or whether it more likely would come from a combination of smaller projects.

The world's largest solar plant so far is a 280-megawatt project being built in Arizona.

Mark Mehos of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden doesn't think anyone can build one large project to produce 600 megawatts. However, he said two adjoining plants producing 300 megawatts each would be possible and would be the largest solar park in the world.

John Czingula, one of the biggest shareholders of Sanford, N.C.-based Solargenix Energy, thinks his company could do it all with one large project. The Sanford, N.C.-based company owns land in southeastern Colorado.

Three other solar companies also have a presence in Colorado - Spain's Abengoa Solar, BrightSourceEnergy and Ausra.

"If we can achieve the distinction of having the world's biggest solar plant at some point in the future, Xcel would certainly welcome it," Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said.

Xcel also is seeking bids from companies to produce 700 megawatts of wind power and 900 megawatts from other sources, including coal and natural gas.

Bids must be submitted by April 10 and the new projects could be operating as early as next year.

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