Training, diversity, state funding and utility support – this low-income community solar project in Colorado has it all!
The Colorado Energy Office (CEO), GRID Alternatives (GRID), and Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association (PVREA) have announced the development of a new community solar project that will lower the electric bills of qualified low-income residents, affordable housing providers and nonprofit organizations in the utility’s service territory.
Known as the Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm, the 1.95 MW project is part of a statewide initiative to demonstrate how the low-income community solar model can be optimized to reduce energy costs for utilities’ highest need customers – those who spend a significant portion of their income, 4% or more, on utility bills.
“PVREA’s Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm is a thoughtful demonstration of tailoring the low-income community solar model to broaden access and subscriber benefits,” says Kathleen Staks, executive director of CEO. “This project further conveys scalability to meet local community needs, an objective of our statewide initiative. CEO supports the expansion of a co-op’s ability to bring more projects like these online.”
Nonprofit solar installer GRID received a $1.2 million grant from CEO in August 2015 to partner with utilities to implement low-income community solar. CEO and GRID selected utility partners, each of which is piloting a slight variation on the low-income community solar model to address the unique needs of rural utilities and their service customers. The projects selected are both affordable and scalable for utility partners and offer great potential to expand across the state. The PVREA project will be the seventh project installed under the initiative to date.
According to the partners, the 1.95 MW Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm will demonstrate complex financial modeling, a mix of low-income and community benefit subscribers, and unique location siting. A majority of the energy output generated by the project will benefit low-income households, affordable housing providers and nonprofit organizations located within PVREA’s service territory. The project is sited on nine acres of land south of the Larimer County Landfill near Fort Collins.
“The benefits of this project ripple throughout the community,” says Chuck Watkins, executive director of GRID Alternatives Colorado. “Not only are we increasing access to renewables and lowering energy costs for high-burden individuals and community institutions, the project is also providing over a thousand hours of job training in solar installation, preparing people for long-term careers in the field.”
“Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association is pleased to partner with GRID Alternatives and the Colorado Energy Office on a solar project to benefit cooperative members who have desired to participate in solar energy but have been unable,” says PVREA President and CEO Jeff Wadsworth. “The Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm exhibits the cooperative nature of our local electric co-op – it brings all of our members together by providing an opportunity to participate in the construction and energy output of the solar farm.”
PVREA and GRID will host a community event to dedicate and celebrate the solar farm installation on Aug. 15. Community organizations, PVREA members, and other interested individuals are invited to participate in the construction of the solar array as volunteers throughout August and early September.
Photo courtesy of GRID Alternatives Colorado: Last weekend, GRID hosted a We Build event at the project site as part of the nonprofit’s Women In Solar Initiative, which was created to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce in the solar industry. During the event, over 45 women from across the nation joined in to begin work installing the community solar array.