By Deborah Swearingen
Boulder Daily Camera
Two new community solar gardens will bring renewable energy to lowincome customers in Boulder County.
Xcel Energy is partnering with Pivot Energy and Energy Outreach Colorado to build the combined 4-megawatt gardens at the Valmont Generating Station. The projects will serve some 800 customers in Boulder and the adjacent counties.
According to Xcel Energy, the two community solar projects are the first in the United States to be 100% income-qualified and operated by an investor- owned utility as well as the first in Xcel Energy’s eight-state service region.
“Focusing on incomequalified households makes solar accessible to a group of our customers who want to reduce their carbon footprint and also need to keep their energy bills as low as possible,” Xcel Energy Colorado President Alice Jackson stated in a news release.
Pivot Energy, a Denverbased solar energy company, is designing and building the systems. The project broke ground a few weeks ago, and the gardens are expected to come online in early 2021.
“We’ll be using photovoltaic solar modules to create clean renewable energy on a really interesting site that’s a unique part of Boulder’s history,” Jon Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick is vice president of project development with Pivot Energy and has been involved with the project since its inception. He said the site is currently being graded and then foundation posts will be installed.
Both Fitzpatrick and Kim Shields, solar program manager with Energy Outreach, stressed the importance of offering solar energy to low-income customers.
Fitzpatrick said the community solar concept was created in Colorado with the idea of offering access to those who aren’t easily able to install solar panels on their home.
And many simply cannot afford it, he said.
“Solar equipment does remain expensive, relatively speaking,” Fitzpatrick said. “When it comes to making an upfront investment or borrowing money to do something like that, that’s just not within everyone’s reach.”
Energy Outreach will serve as the subscribing agency and plans to use its current energy assistance program, which finds customers with overdue Xcel bills and assists them in paying, to locate customers who would benefit from the solar gardens.
The project will be available to families at 185% of the federal poverty level, Shields said.