| viewpoint advances
ca Mero N M. bur Ns/clea N eNerGy ecoNoMy for the re Gio N
In Rifle, Colo., the community turned out in June 2011 for the commissioning
of their 700-kilowatt solar garden, built by Clean Energy Collective of nearby
Carbondale. While Rifle lies at the center of Colorado’s fossil-fuel exploration
zone, its population of 9,172 has built more than 4. 2 megawatts of photovol-
taic arrays. That’s 458 watts per capita — probably the highest in the nation,
according to Del Worley of Holy Cross Energy, the local utility.
Community Solar Gardens offer Creative Business Model by Joseph McCabe
joseph Mccabe, P.e., is a
fellow of the american
solar energy society
and currently works as
project manager for the
team at sra international in Golden, colo.
reach him via energy
Ten years ago, California passed SB 1038, enabling electricity generated at a remote location (the Pho- tovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications, or PVUSA,
site) to net-meter into Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s city of
Davis grid. PVUSA was designed to reduce peak demand
on traditional power plants (for background, see SOLAR
TODAY’s interview with Dan Shugar in “Solar’s Visionaries
on the Next 25 Years,” January/February 2012). By 2005,
while helping to write new rules for the Amendment 37
renewable portfolio standard in Colorado, I noticed that
some industrial accounts were paying very high demand
charges for electricity.
Connecting the dots, I then proposed a new photovoltaic (PV) business model to the Sacramento Municipal
Utility District (SMUD). They could install a PV system
at a walnut packaging plant. It would reduce local demand,
and excess energy could be marketed to other SMUD customers on a net-metered basis.
The plan launched in 2007 as SolarShares. It enabled
people to obtain solar electricity from a remote location,
including renters, condo owners and homeowners with
shaded rooftops — people who had been shut out of solar
ownership in the past.
It was a great idea but not especially original. I soon
learned of similar programs springing up elsewhere. For
instance, United Power in Brighton, Colo., had independently designed a program they called Sol Partners, which
debuted in 2008. There were others.
In 2010 the Colorado legislature passed the first-in-the-nation Community Solar Gardens Act, championed
by Rep. Claire Levy. The same year, the Clean Energy Collective in Carbondale, Colo., began building solar gardens
14 May 2012 SOLAR TODAY solartoday.org
Copyright © 2012 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
in a string of communities west of Aspen. More recently, I
have helped finance some community solar garden projects
through the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office Renew-
able Energy Development Team program.