Tri-State member United Power offers consumers a piece of the solar (power) pie

What if you wanted solar energy, but couldn’t afford the price tag for installation, or didn’t have a suitable place to install panels? Tri-State member cooperative United Power has developed a program that illustrates the cooperative model in its purest form, while simultaneously diversifying its energy load with renewable power.

The venture ­- Sol Partners Cooperative Solar Farm – is a first-of-its-kind cooperative solar farm supported by individual member investments. As part of United Power’s New Energy program, the solar farm is another concept of the continuing effort by the co-op to provide unique and innovative solutions for its members, allowing them to personally invest in green resources.

As part of the program, United Power member consumers may lease a 210-watt solar panel for a 25-year period, during which time they reap all the benefits of the panel in the form of solar credits on their electricity bills.

Members who participate in the Sol Partners program also have the added benefit of monitoring the production of their panel(s) in real-time through the program’s Web site.

Located just northwest of United Power’s headquarters building in Brighton, Colo., the initial Sol Partners module consists of 48 photovoltaic panels representing 10 kilowatts of power.

United Power anticipates that one 210-watt panel will produce nearly a three-percent return on its investment or approximately $32 per year in electricity credits. On average, it requires 20 panels to offset 100 percent of the electric usage for an average home.

Check out the recent Wall Street Journal article that covered the Sol Partners Cooperative Solar Farm and talked to program participants.

“The solar farm is self-sustaining, funded entirely by participants,” said Laurel Eller, United Power communications specialist. “It’s truly a cooperative.”

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