Community solar project overcomes obstacles to provide equal access to net metering, part 3

While the idea and the application for customers proves to be straightforward, simple and direct, getting the collective off the ground was anything but.

“This has been an exceedingly challenging project to get off the ground,” Martindale said. “It’s taken more than two years.”

She said it worked in collaboration with Holly Cross. But that getting wider support for a project like this will be difficult. Although, the state passed legislation last year that will at least allow the Clean Energy Collective to work out an agreement with Xcel Energy, the largest power provider in Colorado and the second-largest in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Utilities still tend to see this kind of program as a subsidy because they are basically paying retail cost for power,” Martindale said.

Most of the utility companies don’t have a lot of incentive to promote local power generation projects because they don’t generate their own power anyway. They will meet individual state renewable energy portfolio standards without making any adjustments themselves because the major power generation companies like Tri-State Generation, who they buy their power from, are required to make those adjustments and are building massive 20 to 300-megawatt arrays in the Southwest and will divide the renewable credits appropriately among their customers, Martindale said.

Holy Cross agreed to work with the Clean Energy Collective because it helps the company meet a self-imposed renewables goal, Martindale said.

It seems projects like the Clean Energy Collective should be simple to set up.

“It’s really about equity of access,” Martindale said. “If utility companies see net-metering as an offering, as one of its services, then they should offer it equally to all of their customers and allow off-site ownership.”

But she said she doesn’t expect a broader implementation of solar gardens to come easily in Colorado or any other state. It would require new legislation.

“And I just don’t see that happening this session,” she said.

Image courtesy of Clean Energy Collective.