San Miguel Power Association, Inc. (SMPA), the local electric cooperative, together with pioneer of the solar garden project Clean Energy Collective (CEC) officially declared the opening of the San Miguel Power Association Community Solar Array.
Located in southwestern Colorado and with a capacity of 1.1 MW, the facility becomes the biggest community-owned solar facility nationwide, providing energy for over 200 individual subscribers in the utility territory.
As explained by the CEO and founder of CEC, Paul Spencer, the landmark shows that the utility-scale, community-owned model’s affordability and accessibility are increasing the solar adoption rate.
He said, “We are leveraging scalability to the benefit of individual panel owners. You don’t even need a roof to adopt clean energy today, and the paybacks are higher than ever – both for the environment and financially.”
Situated northwest of Paradox Valley using U.S. Highway 90, around 15 miles to the west of Nurita, Colorado, the SMPA Community Solar Array is established on seven acres of land. Minus rebates by SMPA, the individual panels can be bought for $705. Customers can buy as many panels as they require, from just one to as many as can compensate for 100% of the electricity they consume, with the credit reflected on their utility bills each month.
Included in the price are the electricity discounts as well as tax credits normally applicable for customers and with CEC taking care of maintenance for 50 years, customers do not have to worry about repair, maintenance or construction costs, like they would in a home-sited scheme.
Manager of Energy/Member Services and Marketing’s Brad Zaporski of the SMPA added, “We are very proud to be implementing the nations’ largest community solar program in partnership with CEC, and provide an option to all of our members to receive up to 100% of their electrical needs from local, clean, and renewable sunshine.”
Also around the same time the announcement was made, GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Market Insight’s report showed that photovoltaic (PV) installations in the third quarter of 2012 increased by 44%, compared to the same period a year ago.
CEC, apart from partnering with the SMPA Community Solar Array, it has also made similar partnerships with six other utility companies, and is part of 14 solar projects either under construction or operational, accounting for over 5,300 kW of solar PV sited in the communities. According to Spencer, by the end of 2013, the energy capacity of the community-owned arrays of CEC will be about 10 MW, and going past the 100 MW mark nationally by 2015.