Scott Condon
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May 23, 2010
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Work expected to start on El Jebel solar farm


EL JEBEL - Land preparation is scheduled to start this week on a private-sector solar farm in El Jebel that could be producing power for owners as early as July, according to Clean Energy Collective (CEC) founder Paul Spencer.

El Jebel-based CEC has approvals for an 80-kilowatt solar farm on land owned by the Mid Valley Metropolitan District near Blue Lake. Installation of roughly 400 solar panels will begin within the next few weeks, Spencer said.

The El Jebel solar farm will be the first step in CEC's aggressive plan to build up to six such sites in the region. It also has initial approval for a long-term lease on 3.4 acres at the Garfield County Airport for a 900-kilowatt solar farm - 11 times larger than the one planned in El Jebel. It will have 4,000 solar panels.

"It's an industrial-scale site," Spencer said.

The El Jebel solar farm will provide enough electricity to fully power about 16 typical homes. The Garfield County Airport solar farm will fully power 180 homes, he estimated.

Construction details of the airport solar farm are unknown at this time because the Federal Aviation Administration must first check the proposals before the lease is finalized.

CEC is also seeking approvals for solar farms in Snowmass Village, a second site in El Jebel and also near the Eagle County Airport.

The company's plan is unique because owners of homes and businesses will actually buy solar panels and infrastructure rather than purchase the power produced. The property owners will get credit on their bills from Holy Cross Energy for electricity produced, so their investment is paid off through lower electricity bills. People who buy into the CEC solar farms must be Holy Cross members to receive the credit.

Spencer said he believes the concept will revolutionize the solar industry because his model will appeal to a wider group of property owners. People who cannot install individual solar electric systems on their homes because of shading from trees or hassles from neighbors can use his alternative method at a favorable price, he said.

The El Jebel solar farm is expected to cost about $500,000 to construct. CEC will internally finance the work at the El Jebel and Garfield County projects, he said.

CEC anticipates it will have sales contracts available this week to buyers. Spencer estimated in an earlier interview that buyers will pay about $12,500 for enough panels to produce 5 kilowatts of power at its solar farm, after rebates and federal tax credits. Rebates are currently available to property owners who install solar electric systems from Holy Cross Energy, the Governor's Energy Office in Colorado and the Aspen-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency.

The price to buy into CEC's solar farms is about $10,000 less than the cost of building a similarly sized project on the roof of a home, Spencer said. CEC has the advantage of mass production, the savings from which can be passed on to buyers.

CEC has been taking reservations for the El Jebel solar farm and found greater demand than supply, according to Spencer. Sales in the farm are supposed to begin this week.

More information about the company and its plan can be found at www.easycleanenergy.com.

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The Aspen Times Updated May 24, 2010 06:46AM Published May 23, 2010 11:56PM Copyright 2010 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.