Community solar arrays offer a lower cost of participation compared with private solar arrays, which can cost $15,000 to $20,000.

Photo by John F. Russell

Community solar arrays offer a lower cost of participation compared with private solar arrays, which can cost $15,000 to $20,000.

Transition Steamboat to share solar array possibilities

Sharing equipment lowers investment and can lead to returns

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Past Event

"New Energy Solutions for Routt County"

  • Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 7 p.m.
  • Olympian Hall, Howelsen Hill, Steamboat Springs
  • Not available

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— Yampa Valley residents can learn tonight how they could someday buy a share of a community solar array for as little as $500 and even look forward to a return on their investment.

The occasion is the latest public forum presented by Transition Steamboat. Tonight’s session is devoted to new energy solutions.

“The whole event is intended to present economic models to the community so they can see that such things are possible,” organizer Paul Potyen said. “Hopefully, the result will be to galvanize the participants to think about how we can change (local institutional) policies to allow it to happen.”

The evening will be moderated by Steamboat Springs native Gates Gooding, who has returned to Steamboat to work on long-range planning issues after earning a master’s degree in urban and environmental planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gooding will introduce Paul Spencer of Clean Energy Collective in Carbondale. His business has helped several mountain communities establish large community collective solar arrays.

“Community solar arrays offer the benefits of everyone working together to improve the environment as well as for strong financial reasons,” Spencer said Tuesday.

In the case of community solar arrays, people can buy more units of energy at lower cost because of the size of the facility, he said. Significantly, the threshold of participation is drastically lower than it is for homeowners who install their own arrays. It isn’t even necessary to own a house.

“The smallest increment of participation is one solar panel — from $500 to $800,” Spencer said.

That compares with $15,000 to $20,000 for a privately owned solar power system. Investors in a collective array in a community where the power company or electrical cooperative is a partner can expect a return on their investment in the form of cash rebates, he added. That return is enhanced by the fact that the large array can be sited to take fuller advantage of the sun’s rays than it might be on a particular house.

Potyen said Spencer would discuss the challenges of establishing a collective solar facility as well as the payoffs.

Spencer is one of three panelists taking part in the Transition Steamboat event.

Potyen said Leslie Larocque, the business development manager for McKinstry in Golden, would talk about how businesses can retrofit their facilities to become more energy efficient.

Gooding said Jason Haber, energy programs manager for the Aspen Community Office of Resource Efficiency, would describe how Aspen used building regulations and fees tied to energy efficiency to raise more than $10 million during the building boom of the past decade.

– To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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