The California legislature may have squashed a proposed community solar bill that would have enabled renters and others to share in solar power project development, but the movement continues in Colorado. The Telluride Daily Planet reports that customer interest in reserving solar PV panels in a San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) community-owned solar power project has been “somewhat overwhelming.”
SMPA is building a solar PV farm on the floor of the Paradox Valley west of the southwestern Colorado town of Telluride. The municipal utility has opened ownership in the project up to homeowners, renters, second homeowners, organizations, and government organizations, by allowing them to purchase any and all of the electricity produced by the solar panels at the project site.
Going Solar No Longer a Paradox for SMPA Customers
SMPA’s Paradox Valley solar power project is due for completion in October, but the municipal utility is currently taking reservations. “People are very enthusiastic, and the interest is somewhat overwhelming,” The Daily Planet reporter Collin McRann quoted Kristin Kuhlman of the Carbondale-based Clean Energy Collective. “It’s been fantastic. The demand is very high, and we’re starting to get a lot more reservations.”
SMPA is installing solar PV panels at the Paradox site at the rate of around 300 per day. All 4,680 are expected to be up and running come October. CEC will operate the farm for SMPA, which owns it. All told, the Paradox Valley solar farm will have a capacity of 1 MW and generate enough clean, renewable electricity for around 200 average US homes.
SMPA has priced single, 235-watt PV panels at the Paradox solar power project at $705. According to The Daily Planet, each one is projected to produce around $45 of electricity per year. That excludes available tax exemptions and other factors, however. When those are taken into account, buying PV panels at the Paradox Valley site is some 30% less expensive than homeowners or other buyers purchasing and installing them at their own homes or other sites.
Included in SMPA’s calculation is the cost of maintenance. “The owner of the panel never has to go to the garden and fix it or make sure it’s working up to standards,” Kuhlman told The Daily Planet. “And it’s owned, maintained and insured for the next 50 years.”
Adding to the innovative retail financing, Paradox Valley solar PV panel owners will be able to sell or gift the panels to other SMPA members.
Community solar is on the rise more broadly speaking in Colorado. Local, smaller scale solar PV project developers are showing very strong interest in building so-called “solar gardens” in Colorado. So many applied for Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards Community solar gardens program recently that the utility had to close the application window just 30 minutes after it opened.
Photo Credit: Jeffco Public Schools