Pioneer solar farmers are growing a new crop of energy in Windsor

By: Steve Friday August 31, 2012 0 comments Tags: Editorially Speaking, Paul Spencer, Poudre Valley REA, solar gardens, solar power, Steve Porter, Xcel Energy

The dedication of the Northern Colorado region's first privately-owned, community solar garden at Poudre Valley REA's headquarters in Windsor on Aug. 28 marked what one might hope to be a significant milestone in solar power demonstration and adoption in the region.

The 494-panel display, stacked in three 75-yard-long arrays facing south, will produce almost 200,000 kilowatts of electric power over the next year for 21 pioneer owners of the solar garden or -- some say -- solar farm.

Either way, something good is growing.

With the passage of the Colorado Community Solar Gardens Act in 2010, local communities and utilities have been authorized to own community solar projects.

Paul Spencer, founder and president of Carbondale-based Clean Energy Collective, saw a good thing and ran with it. Over the last two years, he's been able to negotiate agreements with several government and non-government entities and with Colorado's big energy provider - Xcel Energy - to create similar and bigger solar gardens across the state.

Earlier this month, Xcel Energy announced six new solar gardens set to bloom in four communities -- Arvada, Denver, Boulder and Breckenridge - for a total of 2.5 megawatts of new distributed power generation.

As with earlier projects completed in 2010 and 2011 - including a giant, five-acre, 858-kilowatt project at Garfield Community Airport near Rifle in June 2011 - the power generated will go toward reducing the electric bills of panel owners.

But more important, it will beef up the local power grid and provide a more diverse electricity supply for the growth and jobs we all need for ourselves and our children.

And it will do it in the cleanest, simplest, least disruptive way. No pollution, no noise and very little maintenance. Which, by the way, is provided by CEC under a contract with panel owners.

The panel owners aren't going to achieve huge savings through these projects. It's estimated that a panel owner will save about $40 per panel per year. At a cost of $618 per panel, it'll take a while to make back that investment.

But it must be comforting to those panel owners to know that every time the Colorado sun shines, it's saving them money and paying off their investment.

So here's a salute to these pioneer gardeners in the field of alternative energy production. And to the utilities - like PVREA - who are helping them grow their savings.



About the Author: Steve