Baltimore-based Constellation Energy and Denver-based Oak Leaf Energy Partners recently announced the development of a new 4.4MW solar installation at Denver International Airport (DIA). Constellation Energy will finance, own, and operate the solar installation and DIA will purchase the electricity produced by the system from Constellation Energy over a 20-year period. Intermountain Electric (IME), Aurora, Colo., plans to begin construction of the project — the largest customer-sited solar photovoltaic (PV) installation in Colorado — in the fall of 2010 with completion expected by early 2011. This is the third large-scale solar project for DIA, with the airport having commissioned a 2MW installation in 2008 and a 1.6MW facility commissioned in early 2010, both installed and managed by IME. Yingli Green Energy, Baoding, China, will supply the PV panels for the project.

“This project marks the third solar array to be constructed at DIA and furthers our commitment to environmental responsibility,” says Kim Day, aviation manager for DIA. “Denver’s airport has a widespread reputation as a green airport. Our partnership with Oak Leaf Energy, Constellation Energy, and IME not only expands our sustainability efforts, but is a great example of public-private partnerships advancing the green economy.”

“DIA serves as a model of sustainability and Constellation Energy is very pleased to work with Oak Leaf Energy, IME, and Yingli Solar to further expand the airport’s commitment to clean, renewable energy,” says Michael Smith, senior VP of green initiatives for Constellation Energy’s retail business. “Customer-sited solar is a rapidly growing segment of the renewable energy industry as organizations realize the financial and sustainability benefits of systems like this. This agreement is the result of Constellation Energy’s ability to use innovative financing structures to develop projects combining federal, state, city and private corporate funding.”

Structuring solar projects as power purchase agreements (PPAs) creates an attractive business model that involves no upfront costs for customers and provides them with fixed power costs over a long term.

“In spite of the volatility of the capital markets, we were able to structure a competitive set of economics for our site host as well as our investors,” says Oak Leaf Founder John Hereford. “We were able to accomplish this because of the experience and creativity of our partners at IME, Constellation Energy, and DIA.”

The system is expected to supply approximately 7,000 megawatt hours of electricity to DIA each year, utilizing approximately 19,000 Yingli Solar PV panels. Generating the same amount of electricity that will be produced by the new solar installation using non-renewable sources would result in the release of more than 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

“We are pleased to have been selected as the premier module supplier for a project of this magnitude, particularly coming from such a roster of experienced partners,” says Robert Petrina, managing director of Yingli Green Energy Americas. “We look forward to working with the team to support DIA’s goals to secure power from renewable sources.”

Constellation Energy currently has approximately 35MW of onsite solar projects completed or under construction throughout the United States and is seeking new solar customers for installations of 500kW or larger. Commercial customers, universities, school systems, hospitals and government agencies interested in developing solar projects can contact Constellation Energy at 1-877-427-2005.