Xcel Energy’s Colorado community solar gardens program get planted in 30 minutes

A community solar gardenIt may be a record for selling out in the solar incentive space. Within the first 30 minutes of Xcel Energy in Colorado opening its Solar*Reward Community Solar Garden standard offer to project developers, it was sold out.

It’s the first time that Xcel has offered incentives for community solar gardens. Community solar gardens are centrally located, but parts of which are purchased individually by residents or businesses that may not want to or be able to install solar at their location. Through the program Xcel is offering production incentives for the installations, which will benefit those who choose to buy in to a solar garden.

Up for stake was a total of 4.5 megawatts of community solar garden projects, up up to 500 kilowatts in size. “The applications come in to such a point that within about a half hour we were at about 3 times the applications that we needed,” said Xcel spokesperson Mark Stutz. “We let it shut down within in hour.”

The company has already notified nine projects that they were accepted for the program, according to Stutz. Although he did not name any of the winning projects some of the developers have already announced that they won. For instance, Solar Gardens Institute announced that it won awards for two, 497 kilowatt gardens. It won awards to build one solar garden in Aurora and one in Saguache, both in Colorado.

Upon releasing the 4.5 megawatt standard offer, Xcel also opened up a request for proposals (RFP) for 4.5 megawatts of larger solar gardens larger than 500 kilowatts and up to 1 megawatt in size. “We will continue to accept applications on that through September 14,” Stutz said.

While the standard offer program was done on a first-come first-serve basis, the RFP proposals will be evaluated. “We’ll evaluate all the bids that come in after it closes on September 14,” Stutz said.

Under the program project developers are responsible for developing the project and marketing it to local customers. They have a year to complete the installation, according to Stutz. In case the developers can’t move forward on a project, Xcel is maintaining a reserve list of other projects. In all, Xcel will incentivize 18 megawatts of solar gardens, 9 megawatts in 2012 and another 9 megawatts in 2013.