In what is described as being the first statewide initiative of its kind, Colorado has awarded a grant of $1.2 million to GRID Alternatives to develop community solar projects that will exclusively serve low-income communities.
The Colorado Energy Office is providing the nonprofit with this sizable grant to design and implement a community solar demonstration project, which is hoped to prove the feasibility of solar as a sustainable solution for reducing the electric costs of low-income shareholders.
“This project will give us the opportunity to demonstrate how solar generation can be a sustainable solution to reduce electric bills for Coloradans who carry the greatest energy burden. And it will assist Colorado’s electric utilities in diversifying their electricity portfolios.” – Jeffrey Ackermann, director of the Colorado Energy Office
With this grant money, GRID Alternatives will implement up to 12 community solar projects, ranging from 50kW to 500kW of solar capacity, each of which will be developed in partnership with either municipal utilities or with rural electric cooperatives, with a total capacity of more than 1MW. The projects will be owned by the utilities and maintained by GRID Alternatives, and the construction of the projects will provide 2000 hours of hands-on solar job training to local workers.
These community solar projects will eventually serve at least 300 low-income families across the state, allowing them to offset 50% of their electricity costs. While the exact details of these community solar projects are yet to be determined, GRID Alternatives states that they will follow the model established by the organization at the Grand Valley Power project, which is said to be the first community solar project in the US that is dedicated solely to serving low-income families.
“Colorado has been effective in helping to reduce heating costs for low-income households through utility bill assistance and the state’s weatherization assistance program. To address Colorado’s low-income energy burden more comprehensively, we have to continue to find ways to reduce electric costs.” – Joseph Pereira, director of the Colorado Energy Office’s weatherization assistance program
About 30% of households in Colorado are said to be ‘energy burdened’ (paying more than 4% of their annual income on utility bills), and 11% are considered to be ‘energy impoverished’ (paying more than 10% of their annual income on utilities), and community solar projects serving low-income communities can be one additional way to alleviate some of this energy inequality.