Community Solar Project in Colorado Brings Solar to More Residents


The San Miguel Power Association’s Community Solar Array in the Paradox Valley enables more people in Colorado to go solar. Those who can’t put solar panels on their own roof can buy panels in the project and get their power that way.


As solar becomes more popular with homeowners, many are still unable to participate. We’ve written before about the 75% (a conservative estimate) who can’t put solar on their own roof. For those people, community solar is a great option.


With community solar — often referred to as solar gardens or solar farms — customers can get power from solar panels installed elsewhere. Usually, that’s within a county or a utility district, depending on local laws. Only some states have laws supporting this kind of arrangement.


Colorado is one of those states. The program there started out with a limited amount of 9 MW, which sold out in 30 minutes. That means all the projects were allotted. The next step was signing up customers for the power the projects would generate.


Customers can enter into different arrangements, depending on the project and on what works best for them. They might subscribe to a certain amount of power per month, or they might buy a certain number of panels.


The San Miguel Power Association’s Community Solar Array in the Paradox Valley sells panels to customers. Although businesses can purchase the power, most of the interest so far has been from homeowners.


According to the Telluride Daily Planet, customers of the Paradox Valley project, owned and operated by Clean Energy Collective, can buy as little as one panel (for about $705, though rebates may bring that price down), or enough to offset all their electricity. The amount of power generated from the panels purchased is subtracted from the customer’s power bill. Each panel generates about $45 of electricity a year.


If a customer moves out of the service area, they can sell the panels to another customer. This is a typical arrangement for a community solar project and another advantage they bring.


The Paradox Valley project has sold half of its panels since it began about a year ago. That’s considered good for its large size of over 1 MW capacity, generated by 4,784 panels — especially since the membership of the San Miguel Power Association is not high, at about 9600. The average size of Colorado community solar projects is 500 kW.