EAGLE COUNTY — Installing rooftop solar panels may seem like a futuristic way of powering your property, but that could soon become a practice of the past.
The alternative is community solar arrays — small solar farms which harness energy from one location to power many homes — and they make more sense for a list of reasons, cost being atop that list.
Construction is underway on a community solar array in Gypsum from Holy Cross Energy which would power 30 to 40 local homes in a model that could serve as a example for many other places to follow. Visiting the array from Denver on Thursday, former Colorado Public Utilities Commission Chairman Ron Binz said solar has blossomed over the last few years in Colorado thanks to the Community Solar Gardens Act passed by the state Legislature in 2011.
“Rooftop solar has had a great run,” he said. “But there’s limitations to that, and it’s still relatively costly. There’s much more cost effective way of doing solar, if you can do it where you buy panels by the pallet load instead of just a few at a time for a roof.”
Holy Cross Energy’s new solar array on Cooley Mesa Road in Gypsum will be a 145 kilowatt facility for income qualified residents of Eagle County. The panels were donated by SunEdison and installation is coming from Grid Alternatives, a nonprofit organization who used volunteer labor in building the array, some from the very persons would will benefit from the project.
“I’m convinced that community solar, projects like this — 150 kilowatts up to a megawatt, distributed locally — that’s going to become the model that eclipses rooftop solar,” Binz said.
Holy Cross Energy is an energy co-operative, meaning that the customers are also the owners of the utility. Speaking on behalf of the co-operative, Holy Cross Energies board member Megan Gilman said undertaking the new community solar effort in Gypsum was in response to desires expressed by Holy Cross Energy’s co-operative members, or customers.