Three new community-owned solar PV facilities have gone online in Colorado this week. There are now 10 shared utility-scale arrays operating in the state. In addition, Clean Energy Collective (CEC) has an additional 10 facilities, representing nearly 5 MW, are in development.
The resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado is now host to two 500 kW community-owned solar facilities that will serve Xcel Energy customers in Summit County. Both systems were sold out before construction was complete. A 400 kW community-owned system perched on a former Air Force hangar is also now delivering clean power to Denver County ratepayers. Combined with the 106 kW original array on the historic Hangar 2 building, this creates the nation’s largest building integrated PV (BIPV) installation at over 500 kW.
Introduced in 2010, CEC’s community-owned solar model (COS) was designed to provide every ratepayer in a utility territory the opportunity to purchase individual solar panels in a shared, locally-sited, utility-scale array. This innovation opens up solar PV ownership to renters, people in multi-dwelling buildings, properties with poor solar exposure, and individuals of all income levels. Because they are sited and maintained for maximum production, utility-scale facilities provide more energy for longer than smaller, individual systems, allowing for a faster and greater financial return.
“Our model is not supplanting people who want to and can put solar on their house, but rather opening the market to the other 75% of electric users who have until now faced insurmountable barriers,” said CEC founder Paul Spencer.
While community solar makes PV energy available to everyone on the grid, CEC said real traction for rapid deployment has come from its broad appeal for utilities. Large IOU’s, municipal utilities, and rural cooperatives can add solar to their mix with a turn-key solution. It provides in-network, reliable, utility-scale clean energy generation at reasonable power rates that applies nicely to RPS requirements without capital outlay or responsibility for monitoring, customer administration, operations and maintenance.
CEC has partnered with six utilities so far in Colorado, including 11 facilities rewarded through Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Communities program. Once complete, access to solar ownership will be available to more than 95% of Colorado ratepayers. CEC has also installed the state’s first community-owned solar gardens for New Mexico, Minnesota, and Vermont, and has topped $40 million in facility developments.