Colorado’s leading the nation in terms of community solar garden developments. And leading that charge is Clean Energy Collective (CEC), which recently won 2.5 megawatts of contracts for solar gardens from Xcel Energy Colorado’s Solar Rewards Community program.
Community solar gardens are unique compared to other solar installations because community members like residents, businesses and others can subscribe to or buy a part of the array and use its production to offset some or all of their electric costs. They make it easier for renters and homeowners or businesses without access to space or capital for their own solar installation, to go solar.
CEC is a leader in the community solar garden business, including its first installation in Carbondale, Col., over two years ago. Having that background and projects in a number of states, including New Mexico and Minnesota (where Xcel is headquartered), as did winning the DOE's Green Power Leadership Award this year, helped give the company an edge, Spencer said. “These are the ninth through 15th projects, for us,” he said.
The company also is in talks with roughly 70 utilities across the country, most of which have approached CEC. “We had the first community solar facility and we’re ahead from an early adopter perspective,” Spencer said.
Under the program Xcel said it would support 4.5 megawatts of community solar gardens. Of those, CEC won 2.5 megawatts of contracts. Under the contracts CEC will build six community solar gardens, according to company founder Paul Spencer. “They’re going through at the same time,” he said. However, “It will be a little bit of a horse race to see which comes out first. It will really be about land-use permits to see which comes out first,” he said.
The majority of the gardens are 500 kilowatt arrays, being built by REC, two in Breckenridge, two in Denver County, one in Boulder County. One smaller array, a 100 kilowatt array, is being built in Arvada in Jefferson County. All are in Xcel’s service area. Although Spencer isn’t sure which array will be completed first, he anticipates that all will be completed by the second quarter of 2013, those most should be done by the first quarter of 2013.
At this point only a small portion of the solar gardens CEC will operate are sold. To meet Xcel’s requirements they had to have 10 initial customers, according to Spencer. “I expect they’ll subscribe out very quickly,” he said. After all, solar has proven very popular in Colorado so far and, as he observed, the whole 4.5 megawatt Solar Rewards Community program will likely serve about 1,000 Xcel customers out of the more then 1 million in the areas where the gardens are being built.