Colorado Launches Low Income Rural Shared Solar Projects

Colorado continues to be a beacon of light in an increasingly cloudy solar landscape across the West (*ahem* Nevada). Colorado was the first state to adopt a Renewable Energy Standard back in 2004. Since then the state has upheld its successful solar net metering program against utility pressure to weaken it and further expanded solar access by helping pioneer the shared solar model. Now the Colorado is once again demonstrating solar leadership—this time with low-income rural shared solar projects.

Colorado Shared Renewables team with a utility-scale solar array

This week, the Colorado Energy Office and GRID Alternatives announced a pilot of five demonstration projects for 100% low income shared solar projects. Delta Montrose Electric Association, Gunnison County Electric Association, Holy Cross Energy, San Miguel Power Association and Yampa Valley Electric Association have volunteered to build low-income projects totaling 579 kW. Each project is designed to optimize the community solar model to reduce energy costs for the utilities’ highest need customers—those who spend more than 4% of income on utility bills—in Colorado’s rural communities. CEO and GRID Alternatives expect to secure additional partnerships with utilities through 2017 to install 1 MW of combined solar energy for a minimum of 300 low income subscribers.

“Colorado has always been a leader in renewable energy, and now we take another innovative step forward as we create community solar models that are more affordable and available to Colorado rural electric cooperatives and the low-income communities they serve,” said Colorado Energy Office Director, Jeff Ackermann.

Shared solar (called Community Solar Gardens in Colorado) provides access to solar for those of us that are renting, living in multifamily housing, or otherwise unable to install rooftop solar because of roof condition, tree shading, orientation, or roof condition. In short, shared solar expands access to solar for the rest of us. Shared solar is an excellent mechanism (when done right) to increase solar access for communities of color and low income customers. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have enabling legislation for shared solar, with several new states considering it. For a complete list of states with shared solar policies, check out Shared Renewable HQ.

Vote Solar gives a solar high five to the Colorado Energy Office, GRID Alternatives, and their progressive utility partners for their forward-thinking leadership in making solar more accessible to all Coloradans.

Keep up the good work, Colorado! (And would you mind giving Nevada a call?)

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