A Grand Valley electric cooperative and nonprofit solar installer have broke ground on a project to develop a community solar garden for low-income users.
Grand Valley Power has joined with GRID Alternatives on the unique project. The project is scheduled for completion during what’s billed as a community solarthon event May 30. The 25-killowatt array will provide electricity to six to 10 families in the Grand Junction area, offsetting up to 90 percent of their electrical needs.
“This is a model that makes sense. We can make clean energy available to folks who have never had access to it. Everybody benefits. By leveraging GRID Alternatives’ expertise in solar development and working with lower income families, we can successfully serve some of our most vulnerable members,” said Tom Walch, general manager of Grand Valley Power.
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.
“We have seen a tremendous groundswell of hardworking families wanting solar and the benefits it brings,” said Chuck Watkins, executive director of GRID Alternatives Colorado. “Community solar can provide solar to all Coloradans regardless if they’re renters, homeowners or people just struggling financially.”
The Grand Valley project is the first of its kind to be developed by a nonprofit group in partnership with a utility. Grand Valley Power has provided land, connections and administrative and financial support. GRID Alternatives will design and build the array. Grand Valley Power will own the array and provide retail bill credits for participating low-income households.
In addition to Grand Valley Power, GRID Alternatives has been working with Housing Resources of Western Colorado, Atlasta Solar and Alpine Bank on the community solar garden. National partners SunEdison, Enphase Energy and Ironridge have donated equipment for the project.
Housing Resources of Western Colorado will help identify and qualify families that want to participate in the program.
“Working with GRID and Grand Valley Power means the families we serve get lower electricity bills, more resources to pay for other basic needs and the opportunity to receive valuable job training,” said Eldon Krugman, executive director of Housing Resources of Western Colorado. “This partnership also meets the tenants of our mission to provide affordable housing and promote the wise and sustainable use of resources.”