Environmentally minded Summit County residents who don't have room for solar panels on their own properties can now sign up for off-site clean energy to be generated at two future solar garden sites.
Solar is currently selling for $3.70 per watt, or an estimated $925 per panel. It's money solar supporters say purchasers will make back in savings on their energy bills.
The minimum buy in is 1 kilowatt, costing $3,700, and providing $260 in savings in the first year for residential subscribers.
Commercial subscribers could save more, experts say.
Subscribers can continue to own the solar for at least 20 years.
If the town of Breckenridge gives final approval, the first 500 kilowatt garden - opponents call them farms - is set to be completed in July on the Stilson property southeast of town.
A second solar garden of the same size is planned for the McCain property in northern Breck.
"We still require formal approval by the Town Council of Breckenridge, and we are hopeful that will be received shortly," said Tom Sweeney, COO of Clean Energy Collective, the company constructing the gardens. "We are moving ahead under the assumption that the town council will approve both (gardens)."
The arrays will allow clean energy to be used to offset the cost of powering a home or business, and owners will see the savings on their utility bills. Subscribers also will receive a Renewable Energy Certificate payment for every kilowatt hour their solar purchase produces.
"CEC is giving subscribers actually more per kilowatt hour produced," said Lynne Greene of the High Country Conservation Center, who noted the upfront cost would be slightly higher, but the savings would be higher as well. "The numbers are working out well."
Summit County government and local towns are currently the biggest subscribers, dubbed the gardens' "anchor tenants," but the county is ready to give up some of its 100 kilowatts of solar energy to the private sector if demand from the public exceeds what the garden can offer.
There are currently several dozen applications in for solar, but officials say there are still subscriptions available.
Those interested can secure a reservation in the garden with a refundable 10 percent deposit. Financing options are also available.
Solar subscribers will know which panels are theirs and will be provided with directions to locate the array they own.
The installation of solar panels on a private residence or business can cost roughly $20,000 and may not be available as an option at all for condominium owners and apartment renters.
The gardens will be constructed and maintained by the Clean Energy Collective, a green energy company launching the model of renewable-energy power generation. Along with Summit County's solar gardens, Xcel Energy has approved gardens in Jefferson County, Boulder and Denver within the same program.