Published on January 8th, 2014 | by Jake Richardson1
Solar Gardens Grow In Colorado
About 22 solar gardens are being built in Colorado, and more will probably be added. The city of Breckenridge is buying 40% of two of them for one simple reason — because it makes economic sense. If they generate a portion of their own power, over the long-term they can save money. Commercial entities that buy solar from the gardens get a 15.8-cent credit on their power bills per kilowatt-hour. For residents, the credit is 6.8 cents.
Community gardens provide space and soil for local residents to grow food and flowers, so it makes perfect sense to create shared solar power arrays too, if there is land available and enough investment.
If a complete home solar array costs up to $30,000, and that is unaffordable for someone or unattainable because the person lives in an apartment building or has a shaded roof, a Colorado resident living near a solar garden can buy a one-kilowatt share for a small fraction of that price. In Boulder, a one-kilowatt share can result in an annual savings of about $270, according to Carbondale’s Clean Energy Collective.
The state of Colorado passed a community solar garden act in 2010 in order to provide solar power opportunities to people living in apartments, small businesses, and homeowners that couldn’t afford their own systems. Apartment renters and small business owners that lease property to operate commercially can now potentially get power from a solar community garden, if one is available or can be built near them. Homeowners also can buy a share of a solar community garden.
The Colorado solar community garden law inspired Minnesota to begin creating its own solar garden program as well. Excel Energy will be the program developer — it is also heavily involved in Colorado’s community solar gardens. Solar panel prices have decreased enough that solar community gardens may continue to proliferate. Eventually, they might even become common place.