Saturday, December 11, 2010

1000 Solar Gardens in Rural Bangladesh

Grameen Shakti (part of Grameen bank, the original micro-lending organization founded by Nobel laureate Mohammad Yunas) is projecting 220,000 off-grid home solar systems installed in rural Bangledesh this year.  If you follow the link to "micro-utility" you'll find that there are over 1000 shared systems - more solar gardens than the United States, by far.


There are some very poor consumers who cannot afford a complete solar home system. In order to help such consumers, GS has introduced micro-utility system. Under this model, one entrepreneur installs the system at his own premise and share the load with some of his neighbours.  Owner of the system is responsible for making installment payments to GS, more than 50% of which is covered by the rents he collects from the users of his system. Micro-utility model has become very popular in the rural market places and has helped to increase business turnover by extending business hours. More than 1000 micro-utility systems are operating in the rural market places.

Solar Home Systems Better Life More Income
Solar Home Systems (SHSs) has brought lighting facilities and related advantages such as mobile phones, computers, internet connection to remote, isolated areas including islands, Chittagong Hill tracts. This has brought significant improvements in the standard of livings of the people better light for children education and household activities for women, reduced in-door air pollution, more security and income generation opportunities including reduced work load for women etc.

Businesses such as rice/saw mills, grocery /tailoring shops, restaurants, market places etc with the help of SHSs have increased their income by extending working hours after dusk. (Case 1: A Saw mill owner, Mr. Hanif has increased his business turnover because of extended business hours). Besides PV systems have opened up new opportunities for employment and income generation activities such as community television centers, electronic repairing shops, mobile phone shops etc. (Case 2: Mr Manik has increased efficiency with SHS at his electronic repair shop).

In addition women are enjoying hazardless and hassle free lighting systems in their daily life. They are getting the opportunities to earn extra income by utilizing their time after dusk by sewing, poultry farming or setting home based industries. (Case 3: Laxmi Rani is running a successful handicraft industry with the help of SHS).

Two very successful applications of SHS are micro-utility model and SHS powered Polli-phone. Micro-utility an initiative by GS has provided thousands of shopkeepers with extended business hours and increased business turnover by giving them the opportunity to share lights of a SHS among themselves (Case 4 : Mr. Umar renting solar lamps to other shopkeepers). Polli Phone has created a successful synergy between women and technology - thousands of women are running profitable mobile phones business in off grid areas; their mobile phones powered by GS installed SHSs. (Case 5: Different religious institutions such as mosques, pagodas, churches are increasingly using SHSs. Different community based organizations such as health clinics, educational institutions are also using SHSs).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Solar Gardens Workshops at Colorado PUC

Community Solar Gardens Workshops at the Colorado PUC

   The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will be sponsoring a series of
   workshops to help write the rules for the Community Solar Gardens Act and
   other community energy legislation.
   The workshop dates and topic areas will be as follows:

   December 2, 2010......    Application criteria and priority parameters (SEC
   and  Queue),  allocation  notification  requirements,  definitions,
   billing  methodology  and  real  time  production  data  (subscribers  and
   Qualified  Retail  Utility (QRU)), QRU acquisition and application.

   December 16, 2010........  Customer protection, subscriber organizations
   and  business  models  (minimum  capitalization),  share  transfers.

   January 6, 2011........  Issues regarding H.B. 10-1418.

   January 20, 2011........  Low  income  and  agriculture  participation  in
   Community  Solar  Gardens  and  issues  regarding  H.B. 10-1349.

   The topics outlined above may change, primarily as a result of discussions
   at a  prior  workshop.    Further  workshops  may  be  scheduled  by
   separate  order  based  upon  the  experiences in these workshops. 

   All workshops will be held at the Colorado Public Utilities  Commission, 1560
   Broadway, Suite 250, Denver, Colorado, 80202.  The workshops will begin at
   9:00 a.m. and end at 12:00 p.m.


   We are keeping in touch through the Solar Gardens Google Group
   at - feel free to sign in and
   invite interested folks

   Joy Hughes
   Founder, Solar Gardens Institute

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Want to cut energy expenses? Install solar!

A white paper co-authored by Westinghouse Solar and California Solar Energy Industry Association (CALSEIA) suggests that nationally, the new frontier for saving money on utilities is local generation solar.
Researchers used software from the U.S. department of energy to create and compare 30virtual homes in different parts of the United States, with a variety of home ages, climatic and economic factors.
The paper shows homes will see more savings with local power generation compared to further energy conservation measures.
Now, we at The Solar Gardens Institute say insulate and seal the structural envelope of your home, but then generate some electricity for yourself and a few friends!

The complete text of the paper is available at

Researchers evaluated three different ages of homes (old, typical and new) in 10 cities for a total of 30 different test simulations to determine what combination of energy efficiency and renewable generation makes the most sense for homeowners.
The conclusions are significant given that the residential sector consumes 22 percent of the energy in the United States, and there are only two ways to structurally reduce a home's energy costs: energy efficiency and energy generation.

Ok, that is great for people with optimal roofs for solar panels.
The rest of us can band together and create electricity that will not be subject to energy cost adjustments, swings in natural gas and coal markets, will not create air pollution with electricity and will build community through solar gardens.

"This study proves what common sense would tell us - it's simpler to put an energy source near to the load," said The Solar Gardens Institute Founder Joy Hughes. "With local energy generation and storage, we can efficiently use a smarter, smaller grid. Public and private investment should be steered towards distributed energy development."

See more about Solar Gardens at

Here are the by-project findings of the paper:

The results of these 30 different home simulations are that climate, local utility rates and home condition are the biggest factors in determining what are the most cost effective energy savings measures.
Lighting retrofits are always cost effective.
Weatherization and insulation energy efficiency measures are most cost effective in old homes in cold climates, but are not cost effective in newer homes or in temperate climates. Basic building shell and ventilation energy efficiency measures are most cost-effective in cold climates, but have long paybacks in more temperate zones.
Rooftop solar power systems have good paybacks regardless of home condition in sunny areas and in areas with either high electric rates or high solar incentives.
Solar thermal systems have good paybacks when the fuel source for hot water is electricity. Upgrades to Energy Star appliances and equipment are generally cost-effective when replacing broken or obsolete equipment, but are generally not cost effective when the existing equipment is still functional (analogous to not upgrading to a new, higher mileage car if the old one still works).
according to CALSEIA, most homes built since the mis 1980s have already gotten many efficiency upgrades or taken advantage of solar rebate, bonus and reward programs. Executive Director Sue Kateley called such improvements and payments "low-hanging fruit," and homeowners have harvested those savings.

Solar is usually assessed as the payback time or price per watt, have greatly improved.
"The economics for rooftop solar power systems have improved dramatically since 1980," said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Westinghouse Solar. "According to these 30 home simulations, the most cost effective actions homeowners can take are to install energy efficient lighting and a rooftop solar energy system. We can't conserve our way to energy independence; but fortunately, with affordable rooftop solar we can now generate much of the energy we need."

The results outlined in the white paper are somewhat contrary to "conventional wisdom" regarding cost effectiveness for energy efficiency and solar energy systems.

Let's break with the "conventional wisdom" or power generation miles and limes away from the end users.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

San Luis Valley Citizens’ Distributed Energy Project

     The Solar Gardens Institute presents a plan for reliable, renewable energy for the San Luis Valley, using smaller  arrays or ordinary solar panels.  Joy Hughes presents the Citizens' Distributed Energy plan on Sunday, November 14 at 6PM at Jillian's studio in Crestone (behind the Elephant Cloud Tea House), and on Monday, November 22 at 6:30 PM at the Ute Theater in Saguache .  Learn about human-scale solar energy that makes sense for our valley.  For more information call 719-207-3097 

1.  Provide reliable power by producing and storing energy locally, and coordinating demand
2.  Provide all the SLVs electric power with renewable energy
3.  Export up to 200 Megawatts of renewable power by upgrading the existing grid
4.  Bring electrical generation into community ownership, with revenues going to public benefit

Respond to utility-scale requests for proposal
Provide utility-scale power by distributed means
Aggregate project finance and power purchase
Municipal, church, and nonprofit benefits from community ownership

Example:  Lake County, Oregon is planning to become a net energy-exporter through biomass and solar production, using existing transmission.

Virtual Power Plants

    A “smart grid” application called a Virtual Power Plant uses software control to coordinate distributed generation, storage, and demand management resources.  VPPs can respond to grid conditions by adjusting supply or “generating” additional energy from subscribers who agree to reduce their load on demand.

    While individual solar arrays will spike up and down on partly cloudy days, they will collectively show a smoother behavior.  The VPP can match supply to demand by using dispatchable resources like biomass, withdrawals from storage such as hydroelectric, or by adjusting demand.

is a company in New Jersey that can “generate” energy based on customers who sign up to curtail their load by actions such as cycling their air conditioners.  Siemens, in Germany, aggregates the capacity of nine different hydroelectric plants with a total capacity of 8.6 MW using its Decentralized Energy Management System.  Cisco Systems is working with Southern California Edison, is now constructing 500 MW of distributed power.  Iberdrola, Spain’s largest utility, is beginning a project in Alava, Spain to coordinate 100 MW of renewable energy generation (Iberdrola is also collaborating on a project in the San Luis Valley).

In December, 2009, XCEL Energy contracted with SunEdison to build 5 10-Megawatt PV plants in New Mexico.  This is similar to our proposed PV backbone.

SLV Virtual Power Plant

    The San Luis Valley micro- and mid-scale generation from home systems up to 30 Megawatt wholesale distributed PV plants.

Distributed PV Backbone
– 150 Megawatts of Silicon, Flat Panel, and Concentrated photovoltaics (solar panels) provide variable bulk power.  25 Megawatts to be located in each of the Valley’s six counties, including wholesale distributed at substations, irrigation corners,  Existing PV plants can be incorporated into the system.

Battery Buffering – Advanced batteries, such as Lithium and Sodium-Sulfur, can back up PV plants that can be suddenly shaded by clouds.

Hydroelectric Storage – Retrofit existing dams to store energy by pumping water back over the dam.  “Micro-hydro” units can be used for storage as well.

Geothermal Base Load – Geothermal plants produce energy day and night.

Biomass Dispatchability
– Biomass fuel can be a byproduct of agriculture, forestry, or can be grown under the solar panels.  Biomass plants can produce power on demand.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
– “Waste” heat from natural gas or geothermal generation can be used to heat structures such as greenhouses.  Heat storage can provide dispatchable power.

Demand Management
– Rather than storing energy, farmers and towns can store water, pumping it into water towers and reservoirs when energy is most plentiful, and using it when needed.  This allows the VPP to “time-shift” demand to when renewable energy is most plentiful.

Finance, Standard Offer, and Community Ownership

    A virtual power plant aggregates its energy output, and can also take advantage of aggregation in construction finance and power purchase agreements.  A “standard offer” will be made to landowners willing to host solar panels, similar to oil or gas leasing.  Tax-motivated investors can transfer ownership to non-profit organizations after claiming accelerated depreciation.
Joy Hughes
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, The Solar Panel Hosting Company,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Distributed Energy System for the San Luis Valley

    Last year, the big solar companies started coming here Colorado’s San Luis Valley – Tessera Solar proposing 1,500 acres of noisy 40-foot tall engines, and Solar Reserve proposing a 650-foot tower directly west of Great Sand Dunes National Park.

   Citizens in Colorado’s San Luis Valley are planning a better alternative – a network of arrays from rooftop size up to the scale of the 8 Megawatt facility currently in operation near Mosca.  The total size of our planned project is similar – about 150 Megawatts, or 25 Megawatts in each of the Valley’s six counties.  We propose using batteries to buffer short term fluctuations, pumped hydroelectric storage for power on demand, and geothermal energy for backup power at night and on cloudy days.

    There is only so much room on existing transmission lines to export power – we shouldn’t let Tessera hog this capacity!

Why is distributed solar better than a centralized solar plant?

1. More jobs are created per dollar spent
A distributed project will constantly have arrays in the pipeline, so workers will have more consistent work than the current “boom and bust”.  Based on data from the Colorado Solar Energy Industry Association, we estimate our project will generate approximately 300 direct jobs for a period of five years, with up to 1,000 jobs total given the multiplier effect.

2. Communities will own the arrays
Tax motivated investors have an incentive to donate the facilities to non profits, schools, or municipalities.  The facilities will be managed by a trust, in cooperation with local charities, for maximum community benefit.

3. It’s more cost-effective
Concentrated Solar Power plants used to cost less per watt produced than ordinary PV panels.  Now, the cost is approximately equal, with the cost of solar panels expected to drop still further, out-competing other technologies.  The high cost of maintaining Suncatchers would leave us with a giant white elephant while the rest of the state modernizes.

4. Impacts are less concentrated
Rather than siting facilities on productive land, we are placing them on the corners of farm fields, on dumps and old mines, and the places where nothing will grow.  Smaller arrays give us a much wider choice of possible sites, and communities choose where they will go.

5. Power production is more consistent
A point source of solar such as Tessera would flip on and off on our frequent days of patchy clouds.  Spreading a solar plant around the valley in smaller units will buffer this variability, since some arrays will receive sunshine while others are shaded.
Solar arrays have fewer moving parts than experimental technologies like solar Stirling engines or power towers.  The turbines in coal and gas power plants shut down for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, while regular solar panels are just so darn reliable!

6. Silicon solar panels work better here

Many different solar technologies are being proposed, but the fact remains that good ol’ Silicon solar panels work better in our cool sunshine than just about anywhere else.

7. Benefits to local businesses

The San Luis Valley can be at the forefront of distributed agricultural and small town solar.  New startup companies are forming, local solar companies will get more work, and money staying in the area will multiply the positive effects.

8. Less need for transmission lines

Rather than overbuilding in the SLV, we can expand the project to other parts of the state, and other states.  By putting solar energy closer to the people who use the energy, there’s less need to build expensive new transmission.

9. Our viewscape and soundscape are preserved, and less water is needed
Ordinary solar panels are low to the ground, don’t use water, and don’t make any noise.  No 650-foot towers or fields of 40-foot mirrors are required.

10. It’s something we can all agree on

The Tessera and Solar Reserve projects are facing opposition which will likely continue through the approval process and the courts, and might be delayed for years.  Distributed projects have a streamlined approval process and are much less controversial.  Why be divided when there is something we can all get behind?

Are you interested in being a part of this project?  Just email and we can add your site to the list.  We already have more acres than the Tessera proposal, in parcels around Colorado!


Joy Hughes
Solar Gardens Institute

Friday, October 8, 2010

Comments for Colorado PUC

     The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will be accepting comments from any citizen on the proposed rules for Community Solar Gardens (HR1342).  Comments submitted on or before October 22 will be considered when deciding the structure of the proposed rules.  Please email with your suggestions.

     The Solar Gardens Institute is gathering together comments from interested people in order to propose the best rules possible.  Here is a skeleton of what we will be offering:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Colorado PUC Begins Solar Gardens Rule Making

     As required in HB 1342, the Colorado PUC has begun a rule making process for Community Solar Gardens.  Anyone in the public may comment on this rule making, and the Solar Gardens Institute will be gathering suggestions and concerns to file collective comments.

     The PUC will hold a hearing for Solar Gardens on January 13, 2011 at 9 AM.

Colorado PUC: Solar Gardens - Notice of Proposed Rule Making

     The Colorado Division of Securities has issued an interpretation on solar gardens as well.  The opinion states:  "...the Staff is unable to conclude a "security" does not exist with respect to the final participation of subscribers in CSG."  The variety of different possible legal structures was one of the reasons they cited for this decision.

Colorado Division of Securities: Community Solar Gardens

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Clean air act milestones

Forty years ago, Congress passed significant amendments to the 1963 Clean Air Act.
Today, Americans still have electricity created from particulate-producing fossil fuels. Coal and natural gas both create pollution when burned. Smokestacks have scrubbers, but the sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides are still created.
So often the focus of renewable energy is on transportation fuel and the limited supplies of fossil fuels and the problems of securing domestic supplies over imported supplies.
But what about the fossil fuels burned to power homes, business and industry?
Can a healthy economy have power and clean air?
The Solar Gardens Institute says Yes, and offers a sustainable solution.
Solar-generated electricity creates no emissions once installed.

Community solar power, through solar gardens, enhances neighborhoods by having clean, sustainable locally- generated power without simply displacing the pollution effects to other locations.
Particulate emissions aggravate asthma symptoms in sensitive people. Ozone damage from power plant emissions can increase skin cancer rates.

Colorado passed a community solar gardens act last session and Public Utilities Commission rules on utility rebates should be out Oct. 1.
Anybody can own a panel or more, in a community solar garden. A solar garden is a small to medium sized array, everything from panels on a neighbor's roof, a nearby commercial or industrial building, or on open land. Typically, a person can own a panel, or the output of a panel in a community solar garden.
If your trees shade and cool your roof, if you rent, if you are in a restrictive HOA, if you live in a condominium complex, community solar gardens open the world of sustainable solar to you.

Community solar is a less-expensive way to generate and use clean energy where it is needed, with fewer high tension transmission lines.

“A solar garden, or community owned solar array, helps clean the air by replacing fossil fuel generation,” said Joy Hughes, founder of The Solar Gardens Institute and Solar Panel Hosting Company.  “By keeping money local, a solar garden can help support local food production and markets, schools, and libraries. This helps people meet their needs locally and drive fewer miles.”

Studies show that each dollar spent in a local business circulates through the economy three times.
Money spent with a non-local business leaves the local economy immediately.

Visit for more information about starting or joining a solar garden in your community.

Photo by Robyn Lydick

Monday, August 30, 2010

Solar Gardens Institute at Transition Colorado - Sept. 3h

Solar Gardens Institute will have a booth and speaker at the Transititon Colorado Local Foodshed Commons and Conference this coming Friday, September 3.  The event will take place from 9AM to 5PM at the University Memorial Center Ballroom at 1669 Euclid Avenue in Boulder.  All are invited to  celebrate the connection between community supported agriculture and community supported energy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Brief History of Solar Gardens

    There are dozens of community energy facilities and groups operating and planned around North America.  With help from around the country, we’ve compiled a list:

The Pioneers

    Community owned solar energy in the U.S. had its start in Ellensburg, Washington.  Gary Nystedt at the local municipal utility used grant money and community funds to build a 26 kilowatt array, with the panels leased to utility customers.  The Ellensburg Solar Community, conceived in 2003 and completed in 2006, is now in its third phase, having grown to 78 kilowatts.

See and

    The Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) installed a community solar array in 2007 called SMUD Solar Shares.  This is now the nation’s largest solar garden, at a Megawatt in size.  Subscribers enter into a power purchase agreement with the utility.

Who’s on First?

    Few are aware of the scale of the existing solar gardens movement.  This year we’ve already seen four announcements of a “first” (starting with us!) – all are important steps forward, but may understate prior work.

“First Working Solar Garden” – Westminster, CO

“Nation’s First Community-Initiated Solar Installation” – University Park, MD

“First Community Solar Project in the Southwest” – Taos, NM (Actually, Arizona was ahead)

“The Country’s First Community Owned Solar Garden” – Carbondale, CO

    The first identified use of the term “solar garden” was first used to describe utility scale facilities, and was used in Spain as well as the United States.

  “Community Solar Garden” was apparently first used by Luke Hinkle of My Generation Energy in Massachusetts.  Various community wind programs around the country often preceded community solar.

    The first community solar facility in Colorado was built by United Power Solpartners in Brighton in 2008 – 48 people each purchased the energy from a single panel.

  Solar Panel Hosting started our 10 kilowatt prototype facility in Westminster in March 2010.

The idea of community ownership of renewable energy is nothing new in Europe, of course.  In Denmark and Germany it’s common for people to own shares in a wind turbine or solar array.  States and localities in the United States are beginning to offer tools such as a feed-in tariff (FIT), third party ownership, and virtual net metering.

A Diversity of Models
    Community solar organizers around the country have used a wide variety of models to deal with securities regulations while passing tax credits to the consumer.  Leases and power purchase agreements are most commonly used, as they avoid the need for securities registration entirely, and are relatively simple.  Until the SUN Act is passed, the investors in or owners of the solar garden must claim the federal 30% tax credit to the savings on to the subscribers – not always easy to do.

In other cases, subscribers form an organization such as a limited liability corporation, a co-op, or a nonprofit.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of tax structure, the ability to pass through profits, and variability from state to state.  Schemes exist to capture tax credits through an LLC structure while avoiding securities regulation, but have yet to be fully tested by regulators or the courts.

Different structures better serve different segments of the market – individual ownership might be good for those with the cash or credit to pay up front, while low and middle income folks might find a lease the best option.

Offering A Choice 

    At the Solar Panel Hosting Company ( ), we are committed to customer choice and community participation, finding the right organizational structure and financial model for your solar garden.  Our business models are designed to limit up front costs for both hosts and subscribers, and leverage the human energy embedded in each community.  We want to be sure subscribers from all income levels have a chance to participate.  Look forward to our upcoming announcement of specific pricing.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Joy Hughes at Albuquerque Solar fiesta

I'll be giving a presentation on Community Solar Gardens this September at the Solar Fiesta in Albuquerque.

The workshop will be on Saturday the 11th at 2:15 PM (see schedule).  Solar professionals and all interested attendees are welcome.

I'll also be in a panel on Women and Solar Sunday the 12th at 3:30

See you there!

Joy Hughes
Founder, Solar Gardens Institute
CEO, The Solar Panel Hosting Company,

Monday, August 9, 2010

Solar Gardens at the Colorado PUC

      The Colorado Public Utilities commission is undertaking a rule-making process for the Community Solar Gardens Act.  These rules will set a precedent - nothing like this has been implemented on such a large scale ever before.  It is truly a ground-breaking moment!

     The new rules must be ready by October 1 ... not too much longer now.  How will projects be chosen to fit under the total program size?  What requirements will be made of subscriber organizations?  What preference will be given to solar gardens that include farmers or low income people?  Public input can have an impact, and anyone may comment.
      The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is developing rules for HR1342, the Community Solar Gardens Act.  If you are interested in being part of this discussion, email and we will bring your concerns forward as part the Solar Gardens Institute PUC filing.

     Solar Gardens Act author Claire Levy tells me that XCEL or Black Hills will select those solar gardens over 500 kilowatts that go under competitive bidding.  The smaller gardens will go under a standard offer from the utility - XCEL is developing theirs this month.  The PUC will decide how the solar gardens under the standard offer are allocated, given the program's limited size.

More Solar Gardens, Please!

     Given the wide interest in solar gardens, it's certain there will be far more applications than the 6 Megawatt cap for the first three years.  In order for the program to make a serious dent in Colorado's carbon consumption, we are going to have to ramp this up by a factor of ten to 60 megawatts a year!  This would allow 1 in 20 by 2020 to become solar garden subscribers (with an equal number getting solar on their own roofs).  A plan like this would require a shift in public and private investment away from fossil fuels and solar megaprojects and towards distributed energy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Solar Garden Party - Saturday July 10, 12 Noon - Arvada, CO

The Solar Panel Hosting Company will be having its company picnic ... we'd like to invite all our colleagues in the renewable energy industry!  Tri-state energy is also in Westminster, so I hope we can get some of their folks as well.

Bring your solar cookers if you got 'em!

The time will be Saturday July 10 at 12 Noon

The location will be Robbie Ferrifino Park, 74th and Carr St. In Arvada.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010 Solar Garden Institute introduces Colorado’s Solar Gardens Act to San Francisco Rental Community

 From the SF Examiner:

   An article about the new Solar Gardens Institute initiative for community solar legislation in California.  Includes quotes from Solar Panel Hosting CEO Joy Hughes and One Block Off the Grid CEO David Llorens.

Solar Garden Institute introduces Colorado’s Solar Gardens Act to San Francisco Rental Community

SAN FRANCISCO— The Solar Garden Institute has introduced the concept of the solar garden to the San Francisco rental community. If California would enact a Solar Gardens Act to complement Jared Huffman’s Feed in Tariff Legislation, renters could subscribe to Solar Panel Hosting and be reimbursed for the cost of the excess clean energy they and tenants supply to an electrical grid [...] 

Tessera Solar Files Final Application for 1,500 Acre Solar Engine Farm. Ours is Bigger!

     Despite massive public opposition, Tessera Solar has filed a final application for a 1,500 acre solar engine farm near Saguache, Colorado.  There are residences directly across the road, and an organic cattle ranch immediately adjacent.

     There will be a public hearing within 30 days, and I will certainly keep this group updated.

     Our company, the Solar Panel Hosting Company, has proposed an alternative - distributed solar energy on the corners of irrigation circles, on old gravel mines, on parking lots and rooftops, in parcels smaller than 320 acres.  Landowners all over Colorado have approached us to be part of this project.  When you total up all the parcels we have received interest from, it adds up to well more than 2,000 acres.

     Since we are committed to using existing distribution lines, we can't cover all of these acres with solar panels, nor should we!  We're going to live by our principles of responsible solar development.  If it were to all be built, we would be talking about 50-60 Megawatts of solar generation, nothing to sneeze at.  And it's only going to get bigger.  Such is the nature of exponential growth.

     Our solar plant is bigger in another important way.  As our sites are located all over Colorado, they will (if built) create jobs throughout the state.  And it will take an awfully big cloud to shade a solar panel the size of Colorado.

     After all, 1,500 acres isn't that big if you're a cloud.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Community Energy Directory

Community Energy Installations & Groups

 Thanks to Solar Gardens Institute researchers for helping to document the mushrooming movement for community based energy around the world!

Stanley Florek - Research Chair, Solar Gardens Institute - CEO, Tangerine Solar

General Resources

Group dedicated to sound policy for community energy at national, state, and local levels.

Solar Gardens Fan Page on Facebook
Folks from around the world, interested in community solar energy.


Off-grid communities in Africa can leapfrog to solar PV.


British Columbia

Worker’s cooperative solar energy company.

The Ontario Power Authority is offering North America’s most generous feed-in tariff.

Countryside Energy Co-Op - Milverton, ON
For solar PV projects, Co-operative Members can buy Preference Shares to enable the Co-op to raise the equity to buy & install the equipment, and to give those Members a dividend based on the number of Shares that they hold after projects are connected to the grid and generate revenue.

Our Power - Toronto, ON
Provides on-line and in-person solar education, information and tools for decision making support.

In development for two years now, SolarShare is a co-operative that will build multiple rooftop solar- electric projects of up to 250kW in size, which it will finance, develop, maintain and operate.
All Ontarians will be able to invest in the SolarShare projects, which are aimed at generating up to 8% return on investments.

WindshareToronto, ON
A for-profit co-op with a mandate to provide renewable electricity to the people of Ontario through community ownership.
Proposed 20 Megawatt community owned wind farm.


Solare CollettivoRacconigi, Italy
40+ individuals finance a 20kW solar energy system.

United States

Interfaith Power and Light - San Francisco, CA
A religious response to global warming, including rooftop solar.
Represents 30 states and over 10,000 congregations.

Interstate Renewable Energy CouncilLatham, NY
National organization since 1982.
Has prepared a template for state laws- the Community Renewable Power Proposal.

For those who can’t go solar on site, provides opportunities to own solar panels elsewhere in their communities.


Municipal utility-owned program that lets users buy blocks of solar energy.

Arizona Public Service project approved April 2010. Customers on the same feeder line can own or lease solar panels. See also:

Soaring HeightsDavis – Monthan AFB, AZ
6,000 kilowatts of community solar on a military base, developed by SolarCity.

Solar Commons - Phoenix, AZ
Advocates for the common law principle of right-of-way applied to electric power. A 10 kilowatt demonstration project, owned in trust, has been proposed. The array will produce revenue for energy efficiency in low income households.


Clean Power Cooperative - Nevada County, CA
Grassroots cooperative advocating for those without solar potential on site to participate in state and local solar initiatives. The group plans to organize local power in Nevada County.

Solar installation company owned by buyer’s co-op.

Go Solar Co-op - Wilton, CA
Employee owned solar installer.

SMUD Solar Shares - Sacramento, CA
1,000 kilowatt project developed by municipal utility. Subscribers pay a
flat monthly fee to rent a share.

A solar power system installed through California Solar Initiative’s Multi-family Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program. Residents at each property will receive 50 percent of the energy produced by the solar system free of charge.
Real Goods Solar hired residents to install the solar panels. MASH program details


Solar Gardens Colorado on Facebook:

Colorado Harvesting Energy NetworkGreenwood Village, CO
Facilitates the development of community-based renewable energy projects that advance Colorado's New Energy Economy.

Westminster seed gardenWestminster, CO
10kW existing array to use as a “test bed” for solar gardens models. Headquarters of the Solar Gardens Institute. Managed by The Solar Panel Hosting Company

Founders Garden Jefferson County, CO
70-acre site with proposed 2,000 kW solar garden and wholesale distributed generation. Uses the “Open Garden” model, allowing multiple solar companies to participate. Managed by The Solar Panel Hosting Company

Clean Energy Collective - Carbondale, CO
80 Kilowatt for-profit community project on Holy Cross Rural Electric. Subscribers join a limited liability corporation and gain ownership of equipment. A 900 kilowatt follow on project is planned.

Carbon Zero - Durango, CO
Proposed 1,000 kilowatt “virtual power plant” on 300+ rooftops.

Nonprofit grassroots group has proposed a 17 acre solar, wind, and small hydroelectric project owned by members.

Town and nonprofits working together for energy efficiency.

For those who can’t go solar on site, provides opportunities to own solar panels elsewhere in their communities.

Utility owned 10 kilowatt project opened in May 2009. Customers receive a 25-year lease on a specific solar panel, gaining approximately 3% return.

District of Columbia

Community solar group. The idea is that members will merely have to sign up—and they will get solar power installed on their roof.

Georgetown EnergyWashington, DC
Cooperative solar buyer’s group.


In return for leasing one or more panels for $999 each, members receive monthly bill credits for the full retail value of the electricity generated by their leased panel(s) for 25 years.


Weatherford Place Roswell, GA
Eight LEED Platinum certified homes. Southern Company engineered and installed a hybrid metering system for the neighborhood. With this system, the homes will be billed for electricity at the regular residential rate, but will have a second meter to register the production of electricity from their solar roof systems. Georgia Power will "buy back" electricity produced by the solar panels.


University Park Solar - University Park, MD
21.9 kilowatt system installed on a church- dedication June 12, 2010. Members join a Limited Liability Corporation and receive a return on investment.

Common Cents Solar Bethesda, MD
Non-profit solar installer.


Members join for-profit LLC and receive proportional returns from a community solar system under Massachusetts’s Green Communities Act

Members join for-profit LLC and receive proportional returns from a community solar system under Massachusetts’s Green Communities Act

For-profit company specializing in Community Solar Gardens™ under the Mass. Green Communities Act.

Co-Op Power – Greenfield, MA
Buyer’s co-op of efficiency and renewable solutions. Uses a “neighbor-to-neighbor” method to spread solar hot water solutions.

New Jersey

Mars Solar Garden Hackettstown, NJ
Did you know 20% of M&M's® are now produced using solar power? (Maybe the yellow ones...) It's worth going to the link just to see the spokescandies in front of a 2,000 kilowatt solar array.

New Mexico

Community solar projects will be built to provide power for specific numbers of homes within a neighborhood and subsidized by KCEC. The residents will own a portion of these arrays. the cost of a one-panel share might be $571, so the buyer would pay 2-3 cents more per kilowatt for renewable energy, but also receive a one-time tax credit of about $230.

KTAO Solar RadioTaos, NM
Radio transmitter powered by a solar array – also sports a solar carport at its offices.

Roswell Community SolarRoswell, NM
Part of XCEL Energy’s “Community Solar” program, based at Eastern New Mexico University.

New York

Community group dedicated to a feed-in tariff and “green renters”.

North Carolina

Group has installed a 2.4 kilowatt community system.


Solar Gardens Pacific Northwest on Facebook

Ashland Solar Pioneer II - Ashland, OR
63.5 kilowatt community owned system. Customers purchase the output of the panels for 20 years.

Corvallis High School- Corvallis, OR
2.3 kilowatt system (100 kilowatts planned over 10 years.) Several more sites planned around Corvallis. Developed by Tangerine Solar.

Solarize PortlandPortland, OR
Community group taking hundreds of homes solar in Portland, Oregon.
Bonneville Environmental Foundation Portland, OR
Helped fund the first community solar project in Ellensburg, WA. Among other projects, has created 158 solar PV projects on schools.


SunSmartSt. George, UT
Community solar array completed January 2009. Participation will be sold in whole and half units of 1 kilowatt installed solar PV capacity. Purchasers of SunSmart will own the unit for a minimum of 19 years, when the panels will be evaluated to determine if they need to be replaced or repaired. The purchaser will have the choice to pay the cost, if there is one, and continue owning the unit or they can decline and the unit will be available for others to purchase.


Conceived in 2003, with Phase I built in 2006, this project was the first of its kind. With the third phase in place the project will total 81 kilowatts. Members participate in financing and receive bill credit at wholesale rates. (See also )

Solar for SakaiBainbridge Island, WA
5 kilowatt array on intermediate school, funded by community donations.

Community Energy SolutionsBainbridge Island, WA
Advocates for and sponsors community energy projects, provides
information for community groups, and advocates for legislation.

Cascade Community Wind Bellingham, WA
Members purchase a share of power produced by wind turbines for a 20-year period.

For-benefit company specializing in community solar. Offers shares in solar arrays called SunSlices™.


Lots of great resources, spreadsheets, and case studies on community solar development.

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