On an appropriately sunny Colorado afternoon, the community solar gardens act became reality.
With the flatirons in the distance, Gov. Bill Ritter signed HB1342 into law June 5.
“At SolarGardens.org, we see the Community Solar Gardens act as a step toward enabling everyone to own their own solar panels,” said Joy Hughes, founder of SolarGardens.org. “Even if you have shade on your roof or rent your house, you can subscribe to the sun, and if you move, your subscription moves with you.”
Rep. Claire Levy ,D-Boulder, author and House sponsor of the bill, credited a single resident with the idea of community solar.
He mentioned that his neighbors in the mountains above Boulder have good exposure, but don't necessarily have the money for their own system. The constituent, Solargardens.org board member Greg Ching, thought allowing panels on another owners property would help the mountain residents generate power for their homes.
Levy looked into the law, and saw several impediments to siting solar panels off one's own land.
At the same time, Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, was looking for a way for her constituents to own collaborative solar. They joined forces and carried the Community Solar Gardens bill.
As Ritter signed it, he spoke of the leadership Colorado has taken in the new energy economy, and the 56 bills, of which Community Solar Gardens is the latest, that position Colorado as the national, and Ritter argues, international leader in new energy economies.
Allowing people to purchase subscriptions to solar gardens benefits the customers by allowing them access to benefits, from rebates to tax incentives, that homeowners get. The act also aids utility companies in achieving their state-mandated 30 percent renewable energy standard as customers sell excess power back into the grid.
David Eves of Xcel Energy said the act allows those who cannot Participate in Xcel's Solar Rewardsz program to do so.
“You have a lot of good ideas coming out of Boulder,” Eves said. “Thank you for pushing us.”
The Community Solar Gardens act will allow people to own solar panels that are not on their property.
Becoming part of a community solar garden brings clean, sustainable power to renters of homes, apartments or offices, condo owners, people with locations that are not ideal for solar panels or live in areas with homeowner associations that limit the number or location of panels.
A Community Solar Garden is at least 10 people, called subscribers, who own panels at a site.
HB 1342 directs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to create rules that require public utilities to extend rebates and other offers available to homeowners who install photovoltaic panels to these groups.
One of the benefits for the utilities is more renewable power generated in areas where it is used and sold to the grid.
State Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, sponsored the bill in the House and State Sen. Suzanne Williams, D-Aurora, sponsored it in the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-El Dorado Springs, is sponsoring a similar bill at the federal level, the Solar Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Act.
For more information on Community Solar Gardens, visit www.solargardens.org.