ALAMOSA, Colo. (CBS4)- The largest of its kind solar energy facility is being built in Colorado. The Department of Energy is guaranteeing a $90 million loan for a utility scale solar project in the San Luis Valley.

The generating project is just outside the town of Alamosa. It will make enough clean energy to power thousands of homes.

The buyer of all that power is Xcel Energy. It already has purchase agreements with the Federal Center, Denver International Airport and more than 8,000 homeowners.

The Alamosa solar generating project will be one of the first utility scale facilities in the country to make energy from the sun.

“It is vitally important, frankly, because the technology is unproven and this loan guarantee enables us to get financing where we might not otherwise be able to get it,” said Vice President of Development for Cogentrix Joseph Freeman.

Cogentrix is the North Carolina-based company building Alamosa Solar. The plant’s high concentration photo-voltaic units are twice as efficient as traditional panels. It will produce 30,000 kilowatts, that’s enough energy to power 6,500 homes.

Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said his company will buy every kilowatt produced by Alamosa Solar. In doing so, Xcel will be closer to reaching the voter approved Renewable Energy Standard of 30 percent by 2020.

The U.S. Secretary of Energy said it’s important to look to the future, while focusing on the present.

“Putting Americans to work right away, and helping win the global race for clean energy industries of tomorrow,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Most of Xcel’s energy is still made from coal and natural gas, despite problems with emissions, but carbon-based fuels are reliable when solar power is intermittent. It would take a battery storage breakthrough to increase Xcel’s interest in renewable energy.

“The sky is probably the limit as to how far you could go with solar or wind farms, but it’s still a big if,” said Stutz.

The Alamosa solar plant becomes operational in April 2012. Once online, it will avoid producing 43 thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.


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