In a milestone for community solar, SunShare sells out the nation’s largest privately developed and subscribed community solar garden. When built later this year, the installation is expected to be able to power over 500 Colorado homes.
A moment has come that will be remembered in community solar history. Colorado energy company SunShare has sold out the nation’s largest privately developed and subscribed community solar garden — even before construction begins this fall.
Colorado Springs Utilities awarded the community solar contract to SunShare under a public bidding process in November 2013. The solar installation, which will feature 10,000+ solar panels, should be able to power over 500 average Colorado homes.
Customers for the solar garden include the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Library District, Security Water District, and the City of Manitou Springs.
SunShare’s customers now number over 400 residential governmental and commercial clients. Homeowners, businesses, and tenants who can’t put solar on their own roof can sign up for clean power generated by offsite solar installations.
SunShare has over 13 MW of community solar gardens under development across Colorado’s Front Range and is expanding to several new states later this year. The company has already begun putting customers on a waitlist for its next Colorado Springs project, which it hopes to build early next year. Reservations are still being taken for solar gardens in Jefferson, Denver, Arapahoe, and Adams counties.
Community solar has experienced extraordinary growth over the past few years. Pioneered in Colorado with the 2010 Community Solar Gardens Act, community solar brings solar energy to the masses.
Over 75% of homeowners, businesses, and governmental organizations do not have suitable rooftops for solar panels because of trees, shading from other buildings, and other physical restrictions. That doesn’t even include the many individuals and businesses who rent their properties. Unlike other forms of solar energy like rooftop panels or large utility-scale systems built for large energy companies, community solar allows all customers to choose to produce their own clean, locally generated solar energy.
“I first heard about SunShare’s Community Solar program three years ago. Because I was living in a rental property, rooftop solar just wasn’t an option for me,” said Alicia Archibald, one of the first individuals to sign up for the program. “Community Solar was the only way I could go solar. When I bought a new home a year later, the panels transferred to my new home’s utility account. The flexibility of this program was groundbreaking!”
“We view Community Solar as a good renewable energy choice, and this is our second time participating in the program,” said Linda Kogan of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. “Our contract with SunShare has helped us achieve over half of our goal of 20% renewable energy by 2020.”
Community solar gardens aren’t available everywhere, but 16 states from New York to Georgia are working on legislation to follow Colorado’s leadership. California is one of those, though the program there developed into something called “shared renewables” and is not quite the solar garden legislation originally envisioned. Details are still being worked out for the California program.
In 2011, SunShare built the first privately owned community solar gardens with a municipal utility in the country with Colorado Springs Utilities.
“We are excited about the broad public support we have seen for our Community Solar programs,” said David Amster-Olszewski, president and founder of SunShare. “The leadership that these institutions and our hundreds of participating individuals and families are taking will drive adoption of solar energy in coming years.”