Two electric associations adding solar facilities to distribution networks

MONTROSE — Electricity providers in Montrose and Ouray counties are pushing to increase solar infrastructure and provide their customers and members with a renewable energy source harnessed from Colorado’s 300-plus days of sunshine a year.

The Delta-Montrose Electric Association and San Miguel Power Association have plans to build large solar panel arrays within their service areas as public interest for photovoltaic, or solar, systems has grown.

In Montrose, DMEA plans to build a 10-kilowatt array next to its offices with another 10 kw system planned for a separate location.

The program is designed for customers to have access to renewable energy by purchasing panels of the array, said Jim Heneghan, renewable energy engineer with DMEA. Heneghan said this process will allow customers who can’t afford to install a home system to have access to solar energy and help offset monthly consumer expenses. He said the average installation of a home solar system is around $30,000, while the cost for purchasing a solar panel with DMEA would be in the area of $1,000.

“You can purchase just one panel. It’s a good way to spread out those purchases over a period of time,” Heneghan said.

Last month, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter announced DMEA was one of 23 recipients of a New Energy Economic Development, or NEED, grant. DMEA received $60,000 for construction of the array.

Heneghan said construction is planned for December and DMEA members will be able to start investing in the project in January.

In Ouray County, a two-megawatt photovoltaic array will be built near the intersection of U.S. Highway 550 and Ouray County Road 10. The facility will be built by SunEdison, which will sell the power generated by the array to the San Miguel Power Association at a discount.

The project will be built on a 20-acre site leased to SunEdison by Angel Ridge Ranch LLC. The facility is set to be operational by next spring, according to the association.

The project will be reviewed by the Ouray County Planning Commission and the Ridgway Planning Commission at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

SunEdison will have an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 this evening at the Ouray County 4-H center, which is a few hundreds yards south of the light on U.S. Highway 550 in Ridgway.

The San Miguel Power Association, according to its website, also is researching the idea of a community-funded solar garden, which would give its customers an option to lease a solar panel or purchase part of the panel’s output. The association’s board of directors will consider the project in the near future.

If interest grows and purchases of DMEA solar panels take off, the company plans to build additional arrays of varying sizes from 10 kw to 20 kw.

“Our board suggested that they wanted to have a goal of 5 megawatts (of solar),” Heneghan said.

DMEA is considering building solar arrays in other communities in its service area if demand from those communities grows.


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