A new way to combat the rising prices of energy consumption has emerged recently in Colorado, and it represents a great potential change for solar systems across the country. An array of 340 solar panels have been installed in the community of El Jebel. What makes this particular array so groundbreaking is that instead of being owned by a single resident or corporation to power one building, it is owned by a collective of community members. After the installation, community members were able to purchase individual panels for as little as $725/panel to offset their own energy consumption.

Community Solar Is Catching

The “solar garden” is now an emerging trend that both reduces the cost of energy in the area as well as produces a cleaner form of energy. The El Jebel array will put out 77 kW at its peak, but two more arrays are already in development in the Colorado cities of Rifle (with a 900 kW output) and Vail (with a 2 MW output). After the Vail solar array is completed, it will be the largest privately-owned solar installation in the state. There is also national legislation in the works now, the Community Solar Gardens Bill, which would legally allow homeowners to collectively set up a solar array in their neighborhood, superseding any state legislation currently preventing such action.

Communal solar gardens allow people who would normally not be able to contribute to solar panel installation and ownership (renters, condo owners, residents of shady areas, etc.) to participate in solar power. With more people able to take part in solar power, the gardens are a huge boon to the already growing industry. In fact, the Clean Energy Collective (the developers behind the El Jebel array) anticipates that through community installation of solar power, the region’s adoption of solar energy will increase 67% within the next five years.

With state incentives encouraging community power, this a great time to begin solar system training while momentum is still building within the industry. In El Jabel, the first wave of solar panels sold out before the project was even completed. A second array is now under way. California is also in the process of reviewing net metering legislation. Just imagine what will happen throughout the rest of the country.

Resources

http://solar.calfinder.com/blog/news/the-countrys-first-community-owned-solar-garden/

http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/08/community-owned-solar-power-rise/

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