Member co-ops ramping up local solar projects

Several new photovoltaic solar projects are either under construction or in the final planning stages within Tri-State’s member co-op service territory this summer and fall. The latest of those renewable projects is a 2-megawatt solar array that is expected to begin construction during the next month at a site approximately two miles east of the Interstate 25/Highway 7 intersection in Adams County, Colo.

According to Jerry Marizza, United Power’s new energy program coordinator, the solar facility is slated for completion by mid-October 2012. The Brighton, Colo.-based co-op will contract with the owner and operator of the solar plant to receive the generation output from the site, adding to the co-op’s renewable resource portfolio.

San Miguel Power recently held a groundbreaking for what will be the nation’s largest community solar project. It will be constructed in the Paradox Valley.

One way that at least six of Tri-State’s members have found to directly involve their members in renewable power is through the sponsorship of community-owned solar projects in which the members are able to purchase one or more solar panels to help offset their electric bills. This option allows members who are not in a financial position to install a $30,000 solar system at their home or business are able to make a small investment in a solar project that will pay monthly credits on their electric bill.

Investing in a community solar project also eliminates any consumer maintenance costs since the upkeep of these systems are shouldered by the plant operators.

To date, the largest planned community solar project in the United States will be a 1-megawatt solar site now under construction in San Miguel Power’s (Nucla, Colo.) service area in southwest Colorado. The co-op, in partnership with the Clean Energy Collective, held a groundbreaking ceremony on July 31 for the San Miguel Power Community Solar Array, which is being built on a 7-acre site in the Paradox Valley, about 15 miles west of Naturita.

When completed later this fall, the array will consist of 4,680 panels, which translates to enough capacity to power about 180 homes. The 235-watt panels will be sold to San Miguel members for about $700 each.

Poudre Valley REA is currently constructing a community solar project at their headquarters in Fort Collins.

Two other member-sponsored community solar projects in the works are Poudre Valley REA’s 150-kilowatt Community Solar Farm at the co-op’s headquarters in Fort Collins, Colo., and a small solar garden that Kit Carson Electric (Taos, N.M.) is sponsoring at a school in Taos. A dedication ceremony is slated for the Poudre Valley array on August 28 and the New Mexico solar garden is scheduled for completion in early October.

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