A Rural Electric Company Makes a Solar Energy Leap!

The Challenge: Solar Energy for Any Customer
A rural electric company is doing something that has never been done before with solar energy, thanks to a seed grant from the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO). United Power, a not-for-profit electric cooperative serving over 150,000 members in Colorado’s northern Front Range, knew that many of its customers were interested in sustainable solar power.

However, not every home, business or public building is suited to the installation of solar panels, which require a south-facing roof or site. And not every customer can afford the significant cost to install and maintain solar panels on their property.

The Solution: A Cooperative Solar Farm

United Power came up with the idea for an innovative solar program that could become a model for other rural electric companies – a solar cooperative where participating customers can lease solar panels.

The Result: Solar Electricity for More Customers

A $50,000 grant from the GEO helped United Power start the Sol Partners Solar Cooperative in mid-2009. Initially, United Power is limiting participation to a maximum of two panels per investor/customer. Once the original 48 panels are sold, the farm will be opened up to as many panels as a customer wants to purchase (up to a limit of 10 kilowatts for residential and 25 kilowatts per commercial location).

The solar cooperative allows people at all income levels to take advantage of solar energy. It also has other benefits. Cooperative members don’t have to worry about maintaining, securing or insuring a panel(s) on their property; United Power maintains the solar panel farm, which is located at their facility in Brighton. The program also creates new jobs for solar consultants and installers.

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