Solar Gardens

Having rooftop solar panels is not the only way to use solar energy to power your home or business.

This blog looks at the ‘solar gardens’ as a method, as explained by Boulder-based Clean Energy Collective.

Lowry Solar Panels
Photo Credit : Denver Post

With communities at a high altitude and over 300 days of sunshine each year, it is true that there may be few places in the United State more appropriate than Colorado for solar panels. These fixtures collect energy from the sun to be used for residential, commercial, industrial and other uses, reducing the need for use on non-renewable fossil fuels. It is also true that solar panels are not used as often as they could be because the appearance of them is not pleasing to many people. While we at CAP Management think that they are attractive, and offer an important message beyond that of aesthetics, so many people do not want them present on their HOA property and are therefore tied to dirty energy – at least until now. There is, however, great news for these folks offering them new opportunity in taking advantage of abundant solar energy.

A term for this opportunity is ‘solar garden.’ This is the term offered by Boulder’s Clean Energy collective, who came to visit CAP Management to explain this solar option. These solar gardens might actually be more accurately referred to as ‘community solar arrays.’ They are indeed centrally located, off-site arrays that communities may tap.

How it works: HOAs, single family homes, businesses and other entities, even municipalities, agree to use the energy created by the solar gardens through a deal with their local energy utility. In the Denver area, this is Xcel Energy. The utility will buy the energy from the solar gardens and provide it to customers who opt in. When opting in, they purchase one or more of the panels. The utility will discount the rate of electricity so that the purchase of the panel(s) is paid off in 12-13 years and after that the customer is saving money through the lifetime of the solar panels, which is at least 20 years and often 50+ years. The panels are kept away from the customers, on public (through partnership) or private land or large rooftops and the customers never even have to look at them. Like a community garden, multiple people benefit from the solar garden. One garden could supply energy for several large entities. This is the case with Denver’s Lowry Hangar 2 (pictured).

We think this is a great way to get more solar energy used productively! We intend to explore the opportunity with our HOA boards.