EL JEBEL - A midvalley renewable-energy company that pioneered construction of solar gardens in the Roaring Fork Valley scored a major contract Thursday to build the facilities elsewhere in Colorado.
Clean Energy Collective was awarded a contract by Xcel Energy to build six community-owned solar gardens totaling 2.5 megawatts of power. The power provider is building 4.5 megawatts of solar energy through its Xcel Energy Solar Rewards program. Clean Energy Collective was awarded a contract to build 55 percent of the project.
The company will build and maintain two solar gardens in Denver County, two in Summit County and one each in Boulder and Jefferson counties. Combined, the solar gardens will generate the equivalent of power consumed by about 500 average-sized homes, based on 5
kilowatt-hours of consumption for the average home.
"The program rules from Xcel require the gardens to be in service within 12 months, and CEC intends to meet that requirement or better," said company representative Tim Braun.
In September, Xcel will offer another 4.5 megawatts for large solar gardens, so Clear Energy Collective will have an opportunity to further expand its scope.
Clean Energy Collective's roots go back to 2010 when founder and CEO Paul Spencer developed a demonstration project near Blue Lake subdivision in El Jebel. Customers of Holy Cross Energy were able to buy panels at the solar garden. Holy Cross gives owners credit for the power produced by their share of the garden.
The solar gardens are intended to appeal to renewable-energy advocates who cannot build an individual solar electric system on their house or business for one reason or another. Renters can tap into the program. Spencer previously said it costs less to buy into a solar garden than to install solar electric on an individual property because of economies of scale.
In 2011, Clear Energy Collective opened the largest community solar facility in the country near Rifle. Holy Cross Energy contracted to buy that power, as well.
In late 2012 and early 2013, Clear Energy Collective will open several other solar gardens in Colorado, New Mexico and Minnesota, in addition to these six sites in the Xcel program.
The demand to buy into Xcel's solar gardens was high. All of the available capacity was reserved in only a few minutes, and applications were halted after 30 minutes because there were three times as many applications as allowed capacity.
"This is an historic step forward for the state of Colorado being made possible by Xcel Energy," Spencer said in a prepared statement. "Never before has the opportunity to use clean renewable energy been available to so many people so easily. Community solar is an important part of our energy future, and it's exciting to see Colorado leading the nation in
community-based renewable energy solutions."