Case Study: Bighorn Solar Project – Revolutionizing Energy Supply for Steel Mills


Industrial manufacturing, notably steel production, is energy-intensive and significantly contributes to carbon emissions. In an era of growing environmental consciousness and economic challenges, manufacturers are turning to innovative energy solutions. The Bighorn Solar Project in Pueblo, Colorado, exemplifies this shift, and stands as a prime example for industrial manufacturers considering behind-the-meter generation.

Project Overview

The Bighorn Solar Project, operational since October 2021, is a landmark initiative developed by Lightsource bp. It’s the largest on-site solar power plant in the U.S., dedicated to a steel mill – the EVRAZ Rocky Mountain facility. With over 750,000 solar panels, the project generates 300MW, providing a substantial portion of the mill’s energy needs.

Key Benefits for the Steel Mill Operator

  1. Significant Cost Reductions: The solar farm generates 613,400 megawatt-hours annually, covering about 90% of the steel mill’s energy demand. This massive supply translates into substantial savings on energy costs, a critical factor for energy-intensive industries like steel manufacturing.

  2. Sustainability and Environmental Compliance: By producing 433,770 tons less CO₂ annually, the project dramatically reduces the environmental footprint of the steel mill. This transition to renewable energy not only aligns with global sustainability goals but also positions the mill favorably in markets increasingly sensitive to environmental impact.

  3. Enhanced Energy Security: Dependency on traditional energy sources often subjects manufacturers to market volatility and supply risks. The Bighorn Solar Project secures a consistent and reliable energy supply, enabling better operational planning and stability.

  4. Economic Benefits and Job Creation: The project’s development created 300 direct jobs and is expected to generate over $22 million in local tax revenue. Such economic stimulation benefits not just the mill but also the broader community.

  5. Brand Reputation and Market Positioning: By adopting renewable energy, EVRAZ demonstrates corporate responsibility, enhancing its brand reputation. This proactive approach to sustainability can be a differentiator in the market, attracting customers who prioritize environmentally responsible suppliers.

Implications for Industrial Manufacturers

  1. Cost-Effective Energy Solutions: The Bighorn Solar Project illustrates how renewable energy can be a cost-effective solution for high-energy consumers. The initial investment is offset by long-term savings and potential government incentives.

  2. Meeting Regulatory Requirements: As governments worldwide tighten environmental regulations, transitioning to renewable energy sources can ensure compliance and avoid potential penalties.

  3. Public Perception and Client Trust: In a world increasingly concerned with environmental issues, adopting green practices can significantly improve public perception and build trust with environmentally conscious clients.

  4. Investing in the Future: While the upfront investment in solar projects can be substantial, the long-term benefits – both economic and environmental – make it a wise investment for the future.

Key Case Study Insights

The Bighorn Solar Project is more than just a pioneering energy solution for a steel mill; it’s a testament to the feasibility and benefits of behind-the-meter generation in industrial manufacturing. It serves as a compelling case study for manufacturers contemplating the switch to renewable energy, offering insights into cost savings, environmental benefits, energy security, and enhanced market positioning. As industries worldwide grapple with the dual challenges of economic efficiency and environmental responsibility, the Bighorn Solar Project stands as a beacon, showing the way forward.

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