Electric Cooperative Investing in Local Solar

Solar energy, generated from locally-based solar panels will soon be powering the homes of United Power members.

Early stages of construction on the 130-acre solar farm.

Early stages of construction on the 130-acre solar farm.

Silicon Ranch will own and operate the facility and United Power will buy and distribute the electricity over a 20-year period.In late 2014, Brighton-based United Power initiated an effort to incorporate cost-effective local renewable energy sources to complement the power it purchased from its power supplier. To help meet its renewable energy goals, United Power partnered with Silicon Ranch Corporation, one of the nation’s leading developers, owners and operators of solar energy facilities. Through that partnership, the local electric cooperative will buy the electricity generation by the 13-megawatt solar farm 3 miles east of downtown Fort Lupton.

“United Power’s staff worked diligently to acquire this project and to set the power purchase agreement into place for Silicon Ranch,” said Ron Asche, United Power CEO. “We are excited that all the production from this project will be used right on our own distribution system and will power nearby homes and businesses. United Power is a strong supporter of renewable energy, and this system will enhance our commitment of these resources.”

Once completed this spring, the 130-acre solar farm will generate 34.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year from approximately 160,000 solar panels – enough to power 2,500 households.

Utility-Scale Solar Garden Coming Soon in Co-op Territory

Construction of CORE Electric Cooperative’s (formally Intermountain Rural Electric Association) 15.9-megawatt utility-scale solar farm in Adams County is underway, with the help of juwi’s U.S. subsidiary, which is based in Boulder. The location of the new solar park is near the electric cooperative’s Victory substation. It will deliver solar energy through the power purchase agreement between IREA and juwi.

“The construction of a utility scale solar project at a location adjacent to our existing infrastructure allows us to obtain renewable energy at a competitive price,” Josh Liss, CORE’s public and regulatory affairs director, said in a juwi press release. “It’s a win-win for the association and our members.”

The Victory Solar project will help CORE achieve compliance with Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard. This solar project, once complete, will be the third utility-scale array in Colorado built and operated by juwi. The Victory Solar project is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2016.

Co-op’s New Solar Garden Focuses on Low-Income Members

Yampa Valley Electric Association, with offices in Craig and Steamboat, is one of five electric co-ops that has partnered with GRID Alternatives Colorado and the Colorado Energy Office to develop a community solar array that will be 100 percent dedicated to lower income YVEA members. Members participating in this program will receive a bill offset from the energy produced by their portion of a community solar array.

GRID Alternatives Colorado is a nonprofit organization that makes renewable energy technology and job training accessible to under served communities. GRID brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power for lower-income households, providing energy cost savings, hands-on installation experience and a source of clean, local energy that benefits everyone.

An analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggests that “between 50 percent and 75 percent of households and just over 50 percent of businesses are unsuitable to host photovoltaic systems on their roofs because of shade, orientation, structural factors or ownership issues.” In community solar gardens, participants get the benefits of energy from the sun as if the solar system was on their roof, but their solar panels are located offsite away from their home in a larger, shared community array.

With the GRID project, YVEA is choosing to experiment with owning, operating and maintaining the garden, unlike the co-op’s Clean Energy Collective Array in Craig which was built and managed by the developer of the solar garden. GRID will help YVEA build the new solar garden and support it over time.

To qualify for this program, participants must pay their own electric bill to Yampa Valley Electric and their total household income must be at, or below, 80 percent of the area median income of their county.

Co-op Celebrates its First Solar Garden

White River Electric Association in Meeker held a solar garden ribbon cutting ceremony this month to officially announce that its Meeker Solar Garden is up and running. This is the cooperative’s first solar garden and all available solar panel leases are taken.

The WREA 2016 annual lease fee is $36 with an annual solar production credit of $60.This equates to a cost of $3 per month with a production credit of $5 per month. Other solar garden business models require long-term contracts with expensive upfront lease fees.

More than half of Colorado’s electric co-ops now have solar gardens, or will soon have solar gardens, to benefit their members.