Colorado to build the nation’s largest low-income community solar project


As the solar industry continues its historical path of growth, it is important that its benefits are accessible not only to those who are in a financial position to have solar installed on their homes, but all of society.

There are a number of angles to that end. One is the work of non-profits like GRID Alternatives, who have for years installed solar for free on the homes of those who could not otherwise afford it. Another is the community solar model, whereby customers who do not have suitable rooftops or own their own homes can buy a share in a remote installation.

Next to a landfill in Fort Collins, Colorado, those two models are coming together. The state of Colorado, GRID Alternatives, and the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association (PVREA) have partnered to build the nation’s largest community solar project for low-income residents, the 1.95 MW Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm.

The Colorado Energy Office kicked this model into gear by providing a $1.2 million grant to GRID Alternatives in August 2015 to partner with utilities to build low-income community solar. GRID notes that each of these is piloting a slight variation on the low-income community solar model, and that these projects could provide a model to be duplicated across the state.

“PVREA’s Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm is a thoughtful demonstration of tailoring the low-income community solar model to broaden access and subscriber benefits,” said Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Kathleen Staks. “This project further conveys scalability to meet local community needs, an objective of our statewide initiative.”

Consistent with its approach as a non-profit, GRID is soliciting volunteers to assist with the construction of the solar array in August and September, and will additionally train individuals in solar installation. A dedication ceremony for the project will be held by PVREA and GRID Alternatives on August 15.

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