Final approval paves way for Colorado's largest private solar array

Clean Energy Collective is the first in the nation to offer member-owned power generation at community level

November 10, 2010

The Clean Energy Collective has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to install a utility-scale solar array on five acres at the Garfield County Regional Airport in Rifle.

This solar array will be the second community-owned clean energy facility in the company’s portfolio, and will be the largest private array in Colorado, said Clean Energy Collective owner Paul Spencer.

The FAA approval gives the collective a green light to begin construction on the 1.5 megawatt array and to begin taking reservations from Holy Cross Energy household and business customers ready to make the switch to clean, affordable renewable energy.

The south-facing hillside site will be used for 6,500 ground-mounted solar panels, which are expected to produce 2,250 megawatt-hours of clean, renewable energy each year. As many as 500 Holy Cross customers will be able to invest in panels at the site and become Clean Energy Collective members.

In a program that’s the first of its kind in the nation, the Clean Energy Collective model allows Holy Cross Energy customers to collectively buy into a community-based renewable energy facility and reap the benefits without having to build a system of their own. It also offers members the same tax credits and rebates as those who put solar panels on their homes or businesses. Members can buy as much clean energy as they choose at reduced prices, and are directly credited on their electric bills.

The Clean Energy Collective’s pilot facility – the 77.7 kilowatt Mid-Valley Metro Array in El Jebel – began delivering clean power to members in August.

Nearly 20 times larger, the Garfield County Regional Airport Array represents a big leap in size for the community-owned model. Membership in the Collective’s El Jebel array sold out in a few weeks, and the company expects reservations for the Garfield County Airport Array to be snapped up quickly.

“It substantiates for us and everyone else involved that this is the future. It proves that the community array concept can be done on a very large scale,” said Spencer.

For Holy Cross Energy, the community arrays help the utility make big jumps in building its renewable energy share of power generation.

“Given the success of the El Jebel site, the magnitude of the Garfield County Airport Array will bring greater awareness and tangibility to the model, and be a great benefit to Holy Cross,” said Steve Casey, director of members services for Holy Cross. “People will say, ‘My goodness, larger is better!’ Casey adds.