Pueblo, CO

Colorado’s Solar-Powered Steel Mill Will Use 95% Green Energy – A Major Step Forwards for the Environment

Toby Hazlewood

Green energy to be used in one of the most polluting industries

In Pueblo, Colorado major steps of progress have been made this month for both the local economy and the environment. The Russian steel processing company, Evraz has announced its intention to remain in the area following confirmation that the energy needed by the plant's electric arc-furnace.

This has been made possible by the 300 MW Bighorn Solar Project which has just secured $285 million of funding to create a solar-power facility on scrub-land owned by the mill across the High Plains Desert. According to Lightsource BP who are behind the project, it will:

  • Use more than 700,000 solar panels
  • Provide 90% of the plant’s energy needs at peak production
  • Provide 95% of the mill’s annual energy demand

Perhaps most significant for the local economy, it will create 300 long-term jobs in the area.

Environmentally friendly steel

Steel is one of the hardest industries to de-carbonize, so intensive is its demand for energy. But the needs of the plant going forwards will be moving to use solar energy which is easily and readily generated through solar energy - a major step forwards for the environment.

Speaking on the announcement, Colorado Governor Jared Polis had this to say:

“If you were wondering what a renewable energy future would look like, this is a great example.” 

A step forwards, but a long way to go

The salvaging of the environment and pulling back from the climate crisis currently being faced, isn't going to happen overnight. But projects like Bighorn are a step in the right direction. The Biden administration has set out ambitious, but long-range plans for the environment and achieving climate neutrality the simple goal:

“To achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050”

This will be achieved by a variety of means, not just using greener sources of energy in industry and homes, but also in promoting the move to electric vehicles and biofuels. But each initiative has knock-on effects too.

If industries are forced to close or relocate out of the US by restrictions, there would be job losses - the Bighorn project has shown that jobs can be protected and even created by environmentally friendly initiatives.

Solar PanelsUnsplash

The push to use biofuels has already proven to increase competition for commodities, resulting in oil shortages for bakeries where biodiesel producers are using up supplies. In the case of solar power, this energy would otherwise be wasted or at least, not harnessed - again the Bighorn project is only having positive effects.

Hopefully other industries will take note - if a steel mill can be fully solar-powered, this might encourage other corporations to rethink how they generate power too!

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