Thursday, August 30, 2012

Solar Garden Mania

Xcel has initiated a new program that will boost the use of renewable energy in CO. The program follows the Colorado Community Solar Garden Act of 2010. The Act was intented to improve the use of solar installations by communities and mandated that the Public Utilities Commission include solar gardens into renewable energy plans.

Solar gardens are commercial-sized solar power systems. These gardens are capable of generating 10 kilowatts to 2 megawatts. The creation of solar gardens will enable those who cannot install solar panels onto their homes or businesses to lease a portion of a solar garden. Xcel is subsidizing the gardens under its “Solar Rewards Program.” In addition, developers will get rebates for installing the panels. The “Solar Rewards Program” was released on August 15th and applied to gardens generating up to 500 kilowatts. Xcel is accepting applications for small scale gardens (between 501 kilowatts and 2 megawatts) until September 14th through its "Solar Rewards Community Program."

Who will take advantage of the solar gardens? According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, only about a quarter of the nation’s rooftops are big enough and sunny enough for rooftop solar and not everyone can afford to install the solar panels. The rooftop solar gardens enable people to have access to solar energy through leasing the gardens.

“The Solar Rewards Community standard offer was designed for Colorado customers who could not, for various reasons, take advantage of other solar programs, because they were renting, lived in multi-family dwellings or did not have homes or businesses suitable for solar installations,” Xcel explains in a press release. “Customers are now able to purchase renewable energy through solar project developers from a community-based photovoltaic system.”

Xcel was flooded with so many applications for the large scale gardens it had to close the application window within 30 minutes of opening it. “The success of this initial offering and the fact that it subscribed so quickly clearly shows that this is a beneficial and desirable program for our Colorado customers,” commented Xcel subsidiary Public Service Co. of Colorado president and CEO, David Eves. “Solar Rewards Community makes solar energy available to a new, broad group of customers and we are pleased with the interest shown today.”

This is a great step for renewable energy in CO. Xcel provides its resources, knowledge and experience into the development of solar gardens. This enables Xcel consumers to become renewable electricity producers and users. This trend could serve to reduce communities' reliance on fossil fuels and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
Angelica Oman
Graduate Program Assistant

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