Solar farm in Larimer County will offer power to low-income households

FORT COLLINS — The Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association announced Thursday it will partner with the Denver-based nonprofit GRID Alternative Colorado to construct a community solar farm with portions designated for low-income households and nonprofit organizations.

The Coyote Ridge Community Solar Farm will be constructed on nine acres of land the association will lease from Larimer County. The site is south of the Larimer County landfill on Taft Hill Road.

The 1.95 megawatt solar array will consist of nearly 6,000 panels and provide solar subscription opportunities to PVREA members. The project is part of a statewide initiative launched by the Colorado Energy Office to demonstrate how the low-income community solar model can be developed to address the needs of rural utility service areas and their members.

Through a partnership with GRID Alternatives and support from the Colorado Energy Office, approximately 35 percent of the solar farm will be dedicated to members whose household income is at or below 80 percent the median income in their perspective county.

“Solar energy has predominantly only been available to those households who can afford the startup costs,” Jeff Wadsworth, president and chief executive of the association, said in a prepared statement. “ This project allows PVREA to be able to offer a solar subscription to any member, regardless of income level or location in the Larimer, Weld and Boulder counties.”

In addition, subscriptions specific to members that are non-profit organizations will be available.

“While we’ve done community solar projects in the past, this array provides opportunities for nonprofit organizations we serve, such as schools, fire stations and other nonprofit organizations that make up the foundation of our community, to have access to renewable energy without the need for the costly capital investment,” Wadsworth said.

GRID Alternatives focuses on workforce development through the construction of its community solar farms and provides hands-on experience for volunteers. Throughout August and early September, GRID Alternatives and the association will be hosting volunteer opportunities for organizations, PVREA members and others interested in helping construct the array.

“This project is largest in GRID Alternatives’ history and, once complete, will include the most capacity for residential low-income subscribers than any other solar project in the country,” said Chuck Watkins, GRID Alternative’s executive director. The farm is expected to be complete by mid-autumn and will generate enough energy to power 300 typical households.