Udall bill would boost local ‘solar farm’ efforts

New legislation being pushed by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall would benefit two western Colorado efforts to create community solar projects.

Udall, D-Colo., said in a media teleconference Wednesday the bill would provide residents with tax credits for buying an ownership in such projects, also referred to as “solar farms.”

The Grand Valley Power electric cooperative in Grand Junction hopes to break ground on such a project this year. Another co-op, Holy Cross Energy in Glenwood Springs, also is pursuing such a project, and had asked Udall to considering carrying the bill.

The idea is to give participants access to the same 30 percent tax credit that people receive when they install solar electric systems at their homes, Udall said.

Udall said the measure is the first in a series of job-creation bills he plans to introduce that relate to clean energy. He said experts believe the community approach could expand use of solar power by two-thirds over five years.

“In Colorado that’s a lot of jobs in the clean energy economy that we want to bring to the forefront,” he said.

Under a proposal being pursued by Holy Cross Energy and a Basalt business, Clean Energy Collective, homeowners and even renters could buy a fractional ownership in a community system for as little as $500. Derek Elder, energy services administrator for Grand Valley Power, said it is looking at selling ownership shares at less than $1,000.

The concept offers an alternative for people such as those who are unable to come up with $10,000 or more for their own systems, or have properties that are impractical for solar power because they are located in the shade or have north-facing roofs.

Participants would receive a credit on their electric bills based on their level of ownership.

Holy Cross and Clean Energy Collective are seeking approval from Garfield County and the Federal Aviation Administration to build a solar farm at the Garfield County Regional Airport near Rifle.

Grand Valley Power is planning to install a solar farm on its property at 29 Road and Interstate 70. It would be located next to a substation, and could be up to a 500-kilowatt facility, which would generate enough power to meet the needs of 125 homes, Elder said. However, fractional ownership would let many more residents participate in the project.

“The legislation that Udall is proposing would definitely be very beneficial to our customers in this,” Elder said.

Udall said if the tax credit becomes law, it would run through 2016. It initially is estimated to cost $117 million over five years.


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