In 2005, Colorado was the first state in the union where voters passed a Renewable Energy Source (RES) initiative. Now, Colorado continues its role as a leader in helping the United States transition toward more sustainable practices. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Rocky Mountain Region announced Thursday that it has awarded a $6.9 million contract to SunEdison for the construction of a solar park at the Denver Federal Center (DFC).

The park will consist of photovoltaic arrays located within a six-acre, quarter-mile long fenced area adjacent to 6th Avenue in Lakewood, Colorado. It will operate on a 1-megawatt system which will generate nearly 10 percent of the one square mile campus’ peak electric demand. This is equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power 145 homes annually. Construction is expected to begin in late summer-early fall of this year, with electric generation beginning as early as mid-December. About 3 percent of the electricity used by the DFC will come from this solar park by the end of this year.

This park is important in helping the GSA meet the renewable energy guidelines set by Congress, and in bringing the DFC closer to its goal of being the country’s most sustainable campus by 2020. The park will also help Xcel Energy meet Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, which requires that large electric utilities generate 20 percent of their power through renewable energy sources by 2020. Also, Fred Stoffel, Vice President of Marketing at Xcel Energy, said that “the size of this project shows that solar power can be done on a medium-sized level.”

Just as important are the implication that this plan to construct the park brings. Leslie Plomondon, GSA Regional Administrator, said, “The solar park is a perfect example of how the federal government can work with its industry partners to embrace green technology.” Indeed, the fact that Colorado’s citizens, the GSA, Xcel Energy, and SunEdison are supporting this project and making it possible makes the prospects better for the rest of the country by proving that the government, industry leaders, and citizens can work together toward certain goals. In addition, Scott Conner, director of the DFC’s services center, said the project will show that “this is a technology that has finally taken hold and can be feasible.”

Thus this new solar park brings with it benefits, both tangible and implied, that affirms Colorado’s position as a leader in the deployment of utility-scale solar power, and, as Fred Stoffel said, “shows that the government can set a tremendous example by leading the way.” Some environmental scientists argue that solar energy is the only energy source that is truly renewable. Going with this argument, the construction of a solar park is the ultimate way for Colorado and the federal government to demonstrate that embracing sustainable practices is of the utmost importance at this point because our heavy reliance on non-renewable biofuels is proving to be more and more detrimental and difficult to maintain.