Solar garden draws national attention

A project to develop a community solar garden for low-income consumers has attracted national attention from policy makers and industry experts.

Grand Valley Power has joined with GRID Alternatives on the construction of 25-killowatt array that will provide electricity to six to 10 families in the Grand Junction area, offsetting up to 90 percent of their electrical needs.

The project is scheduled for completion in time for what’s billed as a community solarthon May 29 and 30. The event is expected to bring together more than 100 stakeholders, utility leaders and community members.

The project is the first step in a three-year plan by GRID Alternatives to develop at least 1 megawatts of solar electricity capacity for low-income customers in partnership with Colorado utilities.

Tom Walch, general manager of Grand Valley Power, and Derek Elder, member services manager, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to brief a congressional working group on innovations in alternative energies. The briefing attracted staff from Congress, the Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Lab and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The Grand Valley project is the first of its kind to be developed by a utility in partnership with a nonprofit group. Grand Valley Power provided land, connections and administrative and financial support. GRID Alternatives designed and built the array. Grand Valley Power owns the array and will provide retail bill credits for participating low-income households.

Housing Resources of Western Colorado will help identify and qualify families that want to participate in the program. Atlasta Solar participated in construction, and Alpine Bank joined in the effort as a major corporate sponsor.