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BP to Build World's First Solar-Powered Steel Mill, 750,000 Panels Strong

Thanks to a 300-MW solar farm.

BP to Build World's First Solar-Powered Steel Mill, 750,000 Panels Strong
A steel mill. maki-shmaki/iStock

As country leaders assemble in Glasgow for the United Nation's Climate Change Conference (COP26), a steel mill in Colorado is going 'green' in an obvious demonstration that even the oldest of industries can be made eco-friendly, if we put the right amount of efforts to bring about this change. Pueblo. Colorado-based EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel Factory will now be largely powered by solar energy, a press release said

Last week, we covered Volvo's autonomous load carrier that's made of 'green' steel. While this was a commendable achievement, critics did point out that the electric motors inside this vehicle were made using conventional steel while also laying bare the need to decarbonize the whole supply chain, making it controversial. But now, the decision to switch an entire steel factory to solar power is definitely a step towards a sustainable direction.

What's making this ambitious goal possible are the 750,000 solar panels that are installed on 1800 acres of land owned by the steel factory. A joint venture between Lightsource and BP poured in $285 million of clean energy infrastructure investment in Colorado in the form of the Bighorn Solar Project. Currently supplying energy to the grid, the project is expected to start operating next month and use its 300-MW capacity to provide for the steel factory's annual energy needs.

The plant that's currently recycling scrap metals to make steel products will now have the coveted tag of being the world's first steel mill to run on solar energy. Although Lightsource BP has both financed and owns the project, it will sell the generated electricity to Xcel Energy with whom the steel factory has a power purchasing agreement that will be in place until 2041.

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The agreement makes provisions for price certainties of raw power, a key factor in determining output steel prices and helping the business stay competitive with other steelmakers who are using coal to power their operations. The agreement will also help retain over 1,000 jobs in the region, where the steelmaker is already the largest employer. 

"Projects like this can make companies more resilient and protect jobs through the energy transition," said Dave Lawler, chairman and president of BP America in the press release. "Renewable energy can create a more sustainable, competitive business."

The project is expected to prevent 433,770 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 92,100 cars off the roads a year, the press release said.

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