Second Solar Garden in Colorado Springs Being Built in Partnership with a Public School
Second solar garden to bloom in Colorado Springs
Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, talks with SunShare founder David Amster-Olszewski and contractor Chuck Murphy at the dedication of SunShare’s first solar garden in April at Venetucci Farm. Photo courtesy of SunShare.
SunShare, the company that built a community solar garden at Venetucci Farm, has partnered with School District 11 to cultivate another solar garden on a tract of land north of McAuliffe Elementary School.
The project will be the first in the nation to be built in conjunction with a public school.
The 2,500-panel solar garden will be built on a south-facing slope that is unsuitable for expanding the school, but the young entrepreneurs at SunShare found it to be perfect for a solar project.
The new solar garden will provide carbon-free energy for District 11, saving it more than $100,000 in the first 20 years, as well as for people and organizations that subscribe to the project by leasing panels.
Construction will begin this summer and is projected to be completed before school resumes in the fall.
“We are thrilled to be working with the District on this community solar garden,” SunShare founder David Amster-Olszewski said. “Together we can bring more solar energy to more households in the community, in a location that facilitates learning about the importance of renewable resources.”
Participants who buy leases in the solar panels will receive credits on their bills for power generated by the panels.
The lease for each solar panel costs $550, with a minimum of two 20-year leases required to participate, but investors may purchase more panels to increase their savings. Leases can be sold or transferred if an investor moves.
SunShare estimates that 10 panels will provide credits equal to half the power use of the average Colorado Springs home, saving the homeowner more than $10,000 in rising electricity costs. The entire project will save Colorado Springs families $2.5 million over 20 years.
Investing in a solar garden makes solar power affordable for people who can’t bear the high cost of a home installation or whose homes aren’t suitable for rooftop solar panels.
SunShare is able to offer the panels at a cost up to 35 percent lower than a typical home rooftop solar system because it buys in bulk and passes on benefits of tax incentives and rebates to customers.
The 296 households and four schools that leased the panels at the Venetucci Farm solar garden have already started seeing credits on their utility bills. Lessees at the new project will receive credits starting with their first bill after the new solar garden goes online.
The 2,508-panel solar array at Venetucci was the first open-market community solar garden in the United States and the largest in the country to be 100 percent subscribed. A unique partnership between Colorado Springs Utilities and SunShare to make the project possible has become a model for other cities’ renewable energy projects.
Construction at Venetucci was completed in January, and the array started generating power Feb. 1.
Interest in both projects has been high. Panels at the second SunShare garden are already 90 percent leased.