Doug and Marji Nash gingerly walked around the large panels soaking up the morning sun’s rays, as their feet crunched loudly in the gravel beneath their feet.
The Nashes, of Fort Collins, bought two solar panels in Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association’s new community solar garden outside the corporate offices just west of Windsor on Colo. 392.
“I don’t see our name on the panels, but that’s OK,” Marji Nash said, with a wide grin.
Her excitement, and that of 20 other owners in the collective group that owns the panels, came from knowing not only will they help reduce their carbon footprint, but when the panels pay for themselves in a little more than 12 years, they’ll be saving about $40 per panel, per year on their electricity bills.
Poudre Valley REA services electricity to Larimer, Weld and Boulder counties, with roughly 10,000 customers in rural Weld alone.
Officials and other new solar customers on Tuesday celebrated the dedication of the rural energy cooperative’s new solar garden, the first in northern Colorado.
The rural energy cooperative took advantage of the opportunity to build such a solar array through the 2010 Colorado Community Solar Garden Act.
The project has proved there is a demand for solar, Poudre Valley REA officials said. In fact, this particular garden, made up of 494 solar panels that will, in its lifespan, reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 17 million car miles from being traveled, sold out before the farm even broke ground.
“The growing energy needs in Colorado make it clear we have to develop all of our energy sources,” said Tracee Bentley, director of policy and legislation in the Colorado Energy Office. “We need all of the above. … As the economy grows, the demand for energy will continue … and drawing from our diverse energy supply will increase our energy independence.”
The community solar garden is ideal for renters, officials said, or those whose properties aren’t situated for solar panels. If landowners move, they can sell their solar panels to someone else, minus the moving expense.
For rural Larimer resident Adam Thodey, who said he bought 40 panels in the garden, besides paying his electric bill some day, he won’t have to worry about the hard stuff.
“I don’t have to maintain it, or wipe them down or wipe the snow off,” Thodey said.
Jack Schneider, president of the PVREA board of directors, said there are thoughts to expand and build more solar farms, but there is no decision on when or where it would be. He said such a program does involve a “sizable” subsidy from the company, even with the panels costing owners roughly $618 apiece up front.
As the economy grows, the demand for energy will continue … and drawing from our diverse energy supply will increase our energy independence.
— Tracee Bentley, director of policy and legislation in the Colorado Energy Office