Contact: Joy Hughes
Solar Gardens Institute
Colorado Solar Gardens:
Empowering community members to join in the solar power movement
A consortium of community-based companies will build, manage, and finance two subscription model solar arrays in Colorado. Each array will have 497 kilowatts of capacity, enough to power over 100 subscribing households. The solar photovoltaic (PV) developments will be available to all Xcel Energy customers under the Solar*Rewards Community program. According to an Xcel Energy press release, on opening day (August 15, 2012) the program was fully subscribed within 30 minutes.
Solar Gardens Institute founder Joy Hughes said, “It’s wonderful that the vision of distributed, community-owned solar is coming to our big cities and small towns. When a roof is not ideal for solar, offsite shared solar is a rapidly growing part of the solution to climate change. Anyone, regardless of income, can now receive clean solar energy through the Solar Gardens program. It’s only the beginning – we’d like to see the program expanded in future years.”
Governor Bill Ritter signed the Community Solar Gardens Act into law on June 5, 2010. In July 2012, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved rules allowing Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards to open the program. Like a community garden allows people without their own gardens to grow plants, a solar garden allows people who don’t have a good space for solar panels to subscribe to a shared solar array. Subscribers receive credits on their monthly Xcel bills, similar to the credit for a rooftop solar array. Residents, businesses, nonprofits, faith communities, and local governments can become subscribers and realize a savings on their electric bills.
“Our company feels privileged to be a part of a new and exciting initiative to help bring the solar gardens concept into reality,” said Solar Power Financial founder Barry Ruby. “Our goal is to offer our subscriber customers maximum energy savings. Our team members, Namasté Solar and Solar Gardens Institute, have the ability to help reach that goal.”
"The heart of the Community Solar Garden concept provides access to clean, affordable energy to many people that are currently restricted from the market. We cannot imagine a better philosophical fit than this program with Namasté Solar's triple-bottom-line (people, planet, profit) and employee-ownership business model. We are very committed to working with other like-minded groups in order to bring these projects to fruition. We are excited to add this new chapter of Community Solar Gardens to Namasté Solar's story of holistic business." stated Stanci March, Commercial Project Developer and co-owner of Namasté Solar.
In 2010, the City of Aurora hosted a meeting of 70 members of an ad-hoc solar gardens working group to discuss the PUC rulemaking process and to explore securities and tax questions. City officials later toured the development’s chosen site and were present at a lease signing ceremony at Aurora City Hall. Aurora Solar Garden One will be located just southeast of Denver International Airport on retired farmland. Xcel Energy customers throughout the City of Aurora and throughout Adams County may participate.
Said prospective subscriber and Colorado State Senator Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora),"After three years of work and conversation, Aurorans now have an opportunity to enter into a new dawn of community-owned solar. Membership in a Community Solar Garden will not only help the environment by using a natural source of energy, but will save money for the subscriber." (In ancient Roman mythology, the goddess of the dawn was named “Aurora”.)
City of Aurora Environmental Programs Coordinator Karen Hancock said “The City of Aurora will do everything it can to assure a smooth process for this first of its kind project.”
Saguache (“sa-WATCH”) is a town of about 600 residents in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. While over 20% of the county’s residents live below the poverty line, the region is blessed by the state’s most abundant sunshine. Residents are excited about the economic potential of solar development and are concerned about preserving the area’s natural and historic character.
Says Esther Last, owner of Saguache’s 4th Street Diner (a potential subscriber), “It’s great to see a small town like Saguache able to participate in this program, even before some of the big cities.” (The next time you are in Saguache, be sure to try a slice of Esther’s pie!)
In 2008, a group of residents in the Town of Saguache formed the Saguache Alliance for Green Energy (SAGE) under the auspices of the nonprofit Saguache County Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (ScSEED). The solar garden will be hosted at Mountain Valley Lumber just south of town. Any Xcel Energy customers in Saguache, Chaffee, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Mineral, and Hinsdale counties may subscribe to Saguache Solar Garden One.
SOLAR GARDENS INSTITUTE: The Solar Gardens Institute is a Colorado nonprofit founded in 2010 with this mission: To educate and learn from the public about community solar energy; To promote good community energy policy at the federal, state, and local levels; To assist local organizations in organizing, developing, and managing community-owned solar energy projects everywhere; and To provide a way for everyone to own solar panels, making clean energy affordable and available for all humanity. SolarGardens.org
SOLAR POWER FINANCIAL: Solar Power Financial is owned and managed by Barry Ruby who has been a real estate developer and investor for more than 45 years. Todd Stewart is a partner in SPF projects and is its business development director.
SPF is currently developing 5MW of PV Solar farms in Hawaii and an 800 kW PV system for a Colorado Charter School. On August 16th, SPF won Xcel Energy Solar*Rewards for two solar gardens totaling 1MW of a total 4.5MW program and is moving forward with developing both of these projects with its team members; Namasté Solar and the Solar Gardens Institute. SPF also is active in select markets that present development opportunities that meet and serve the needs of all of a project’s stakeholders. Solar-power-financial.com
NAMASTÉ SOLAR: Namasté Solar is an employee-owned cooperative dedicated to bringing clean, reliable, and affordable renewable energy to homes, businesses, and nonprofits. As the leading solar company in Colorado, with more in-state installations than any other company, Namasté Solar has installed more than 2,000 photovoltaic systems, totaling almost 20 megawatts, since its inception in 2005. Its unique business model includes employee ownership, democratic decision-making, community collaboration, an innovative solar grant program, zero-waste initiatives, and holistic profit measurement. NamasteSolar.com