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What To Know About Colorado’s Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act

Colorado's Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act lets residents and investor-owned utilities create community solar gardens statewide.

Colorado legislators passed the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act in 2010. The act allows residents and investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to create community solar gardens throughout the state of Colorado.

Thanks to this bill, Colorado became one of the first U.S. states to allow community solar projects. As a result, statewide residents have better access to renewable energy. 

Here’s a look into what a community solar garden is and details surrounding Colorado’s Modernization Act.

What Counts as a Community Solar Garden in Colorado?

A community solar garden is an area with a large amount of sunlight that hosts solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that benefit the community. Furthermore, community members can invest in a set of PV panels by buying them up-front or signing a rental agreement. This then qualifies them for solar credits on their monthly energy bills.

Colorado allows community solar gardens if they meet these requirements:

  • The solar garden produces 5 megawatts (MW) of power or less.
  • The solar garden has 10 or more subscribers, with none of them owning more than 40% of the produced solar power. 
  • Installers mount the solar garden’s panels either on a roof or on the ground

Who Can Participate in Colorado’s Community Solar Gardens?

In Colorado, solar panels face a few regulations for a solar project to fall under the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act:

  • Single owners
  • Subscribers
  • Utility companies

We’ll explain each party’s guidelines and requirements below.

Single Owners Using Community Solar Gardens

If a single owner creates a solar garden, the solar power that the panels produce can be either for profit or nonprofit. However, the sole reason behind creating the garden should be to own and operate a solar garden. 

Homeowners sometimes resort to solar gardens as a solar-powered electricity source if their roof is unsuitable for an installation or if the system wouldn’t receive enough sun exposure. The latter is usually the case for homes that don’t have a south-facing roof or are too shaded. 

[Related: What Is the Best Roof for Solar Panels?]

Subscribers to Community Solar Garden Groups

If a community solar garden has subscribers, they all must live within the same county and own at least a 1-kilowatt (KW) share of the system. However, that share can’t be more than 120% of their total electricity consumption. 

Subscribers receive their share of electricity as compensation for subscribing to the solar garden. Additionally, they benefit from Colorado-based rebates and incentives, such as net metering credits or renewable energy credits.

Utility Companies Investing in Community Solar Gardens

A utility company that creates a community solar garden can own up to half the solar garden’s energy. However, it must encourage renters and low-income earners to subscribe to the garden. 

Under the act, 5% of the garden’s capacity is exclusively for subscribers who are at 185% or below the federal poverty limit. Additionally, renewable energy credits from a utility’s solar garden can’t be over 20% of the company’s retail distribution, per Colorado’s renewable portfolio standard.

[Related: Here’s What You Need To Know Before Installing Solar Panels on Your Home]

How Does the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act Benefit Colorado and Its Residents?

Colorado is an avid supporter of all renewable energy forms, but the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act opened doors for more than just well-off residents wanting to use solar power. 

In fact, the act was the first legislation to craft a section for low-income earners in an energy mandate. This gives renters who might be unable to get an installation approved and those living at or below the poverty level the opportunity to use solar power.

Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) for 2020 aims for 30% of the state’s energy consumption to come from renewable sources. And since the 2016 expansion of the Modernization Act and a settlement deal with Xcel Energy, residents at all income levels have access to solar power. As a result, this is an achievable standard.

[Related: Eco-Friendly Businesses in Colorado To Support

Contact Freedom Solar for Your Community Garden’s Solar Needs

For more information about solar panel company Freedom Solar or to purchase SunPower solar panels for your community garden, get in touch! Call us at (877) 792-1643 or complete our online inquiry form

Featured image credit: Photo by Josh Berendes on Unsplash