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Colorado Springs Utilities makes solar affordable


September 3, 2013

Colorado Springs Utilities in Colorado was one of the first utilities to launch a solar garden when it deployed its program in 2011. Customers who buy or lease solar panels installed in the solar garden get a rebate of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour on their utility bills.

The program has been a great success, according to an article in Public Power magazine. While rooftop solar is becoming more ubiquitous for residential power customers in the West, the initial up-front investment remains a hurdle for some. The state of Colorado aimed to combat that when it added community solar gardens to its renewable energy standard in 2010. Colorado Springs launched its program shortly after.

The solar garden includes four solar arrays that total 2 MW of community power. The panels are subscribed to various customers who participate in the solar garden program. The customers sign 20-year leases for the panels, which cost about $550 after federal and utility rebates. Customers must purchase a minimum of about two panels.

Interest in the program remains high despite minimal marketing by the utility, according to John Romero, general manager of energy acquisition, engineering and planning for Colorado Springs Utilities. The solar garden concept garnered local media attention and contractors handled marketing it to customers. Customers have overall been very happy with the program, Romero said.

To find out what some of the challenges have been for Colorado Springs Utilities in launching its solar garden program, read "Solar for the Masses," on publicpower.org.

Subscriptions to the electronic and print editions of Public Power and all other APPA periodicals are free to all employees and governing board members of APPA member utilities and associate members. An online subscription signup form is on publicpower.org.

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