Two community solar gardens in Breckenridge were admitted Wednesday into a highly competitive Xcel Energy program that will give Summit County a chance to offset utility bills by investing into the grid.
The approved gardens are 500-kilowatt solar installations at the McCain property north of Breckenridge on Hwy. 9 and the Stilson property, southeast of Breckenridge.
Solar gardnes allow people, organizations or businesses to participate financially in owning part of a solar array without having equipment on their property.
The Clean Energy Collective is a green energy company pioneering the model of clean power generation through developing such sites collectively owned by participating utility customers. The most recent was a 800-kilowat garden in Garfield County.
As predicted, when Xcel Energy opened its new program Wednesday morning, a surplus of proposals were submitted - three times more than the program could fill.
Clean Energy Collective's proposals for the gardens located near Breckenridge will account for 2.5-megawatts of the 4.5-megawatts allocated for the program.
"We are extremely excited to have had as many applications approved by Xcel that we did," said Thomas Sweeney, chief operating officer of Clean Energy Collective. "We're looking forward to working with Xcel in implementing the solar gardens in the various counties and bringing community solar to the Xcel customers."
Of the remaining four approved gardens, Clean Energy Collective will construct two solar arrays in Denver, one in Jefferson County and one in Boulder.
The solar gardens will allow individuals, businesses and local governments to buy solar-generated power at the garden to offset their energy bills without installing panels or arrays on their own property.
"We have found that investing in community solar gardens typically costs 30 percent less than individual roof-top solar panels," Sweeney said.
At an installation cost of some $20,000 for a solar array, the lease option offered by the Xcel program allows an investor to purchase a portion maintained elsewhere to save money and support clean energy.
Rates for purchasing panels in the community gardens equaling 1-kilowatt of energy will likely fall between $3,000 and $3,500. Solar garden subscribers may see a return on their initial investment within a few years of the purchase, Sweeney said.
The two solar gardens add to Breckenridge's long list of sustainable efforts.
"There is a lot of community support for something like this," said Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dykstra-DiLallo. "We really feel like this is a great opportunity that goes along the lines of the whole SustainableBreck initiative, what we want to achieve and what the community has told us they want."
Summit County Government, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and the towns of Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Dillon are among interested subscribers for the two Breckenridge community solar arrays.
Upon approval, Clean Energy Collective is required by Xcel to complete construction of the solar gardens within one year.