SMPA Solar Project Finds Possible Home in Paradox Valley
by Gus Jarvis
Mar 17, 2012 | 950 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RIDGWAY – After several years of research and setbacks, San Miguel Power Association, along with the Clean Energy Collective, have found a location to house a community solar project in the Paradox Valley. Soon, residents will be able to harness the power of the sun without having to install panels on their homes.

Clean Energy Collective, a developer of community-based renewable energy facilities, hopes a privately owned seven-acre plot of land in the northeast corner of the Paradox Valley will be the site of a one-megawatt solar project. The land is located on Highway 90 approximately 14 miles west of Naturita, Colo.

“We’re excited to announce that our community solar project is one step closer to reality,” SMPA General Manager Kevin Ritter said in a press release issued to The Watch. “We’re now in the process of making sure our local communities are fully aware of our intentions to develop the project in Paradox Valley.”

SMPA’s Manager of Member Services and Marketing Brad Zaporski said the new project is the result of years of thorough research and comes after an unsuccessful attempt in 2010 to develop a two-megawatt system in Ouray County.

“For more than two years, SMPA has been working to develop a project like this,” said Zaporski. “And while we had a momentary stumbling block when the negotiations with Sun Edison fell through, we knew we couldn’t stop there. We conducted an RFP selection process and chose the CEC from many qualified applicants. Likewise, we conducted an in-depth analysis of our system and its solar resources.”

The result of that work is a one-megawatt, community-owned facility sited in the co-op’s best solar area – Paradox Valley. Since the SMPA Community Solar project will be community-owned, members can buy into the project by purchasing solar panels. Through the CEC’s RemoteMeter software, they will receive a monthly monetary credit directly on their SMPA electric bills for the power their panels produce. Each solar panel is 235 watts, costs $705 and will generate around $45 worth of electricity per year.

SMPA will purchase the electricity produced by the panels owned by members as well as those that have not been sold. That money will come from the co-op’s Green Cents program, where members can voluntarily round up their electric bill to support local renewable energy development.

“It’s important to highlight the fact that we’ve worked together with the CEC to build a project that is both beneficial and fair to our membership,” Zaporski said. “The members who chose to support renewable energy are the ones paying for the project and receiving the payback benefits accordingly. It is completely voluntary to participate in Green Cents and completely voluntary to purchase a solar panel.”

The CEC hopes to finalize permitting this month and break ground in early April. They anticipate it will take three months to construct the project and the array should be pumping power to local homes and business in June. This will be CEC’s fourth community solar garden operating in Colorado, with approval for two more in the works. The Colorado-based company is pioneering the model of delivering clean power-generation through large-scale facilities that are collectively owned by participating utility customers.

“We are excited to be SMPA’s community solar partner, launching such a significant clean energy project to benefit local members and the surrounding environment,” said CEC’s President Paul Spencer. “SMPA is leading the way with this community solar program, providing its members with an advantageous solar ownership opportunity.”

The CEC is currently taking reservations for solar panels. They work with members to determine what will work with their budgets and energy use. CEC also offers flexible, interest-free financing for qualified members through its SolarSaver program. Anyone interested in learning more or reserving panels should contact CEC directly at, 888/208-5858 or or @gusgusj
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