Community-Owned Solar Power on the Rise in the U.S.

Conditions are right for growth in community-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) projects. With more than 1-MW of community-owned solar garden projects in development and a pipeline of an expected 5-MW more this year, Martifer Solar USA and the Clean Energy Collective intend to capitalize on the improving situation.

The two partners are leveraging their respective strengths in the U.S. solar power sector to bring an increasing amount of local, community-owned solar power capacity online – Los Angeles-based multinational Martifer Solar USA in PV manufacturing and systems installation and Clean Energy Collective in community-based renewable power project development.

“With demonstrated success in Colorado and net metering legislation on the table in California, now is the time for community owned solar,” Martifer CEO Raffi Agopian stated in a press release.

Unique partnership model

“We have always sought innovative ways to deliver solar power to Americans, and our partnership with the Clean Energy Collective represents the best of those efforts. Their unique ownership model, combined with our expertise in project development, design and construction, has secured over a megawatt of contracts so far this year. We are already looking at a total project pipeline in excess of five megawatts for 2012.”

A pioneer in the field, Clean Energy Collective (CEC) has developed an innovative business model and technology for developing community-based clean, renewable power generation. Partnering with solar PV manufacturing and installation companies such as Martifer Solar USA, it develops large-scale solar and renewable power facilities that are “collectively owned by participating power utility customers.”

A core aspect of such efforts is CEC’s proprietary RemoteMeter system, which “automatically calculates monthly credits and integrates with existing utility billing systems, enabling all utility customers to easily have clean, renewable power credited directly on their monthly utility bills without modifying their home or office,” CEC explains.

Colorado a hotspot for community-owned solar power
Colorado’s been a hotspot for CEC and Martifer Solar USA’s solar gardens. The two worked together in 2011 to build the 858-kW Garfield County Airport Solar Array – the largest PV installation of its kind in the U.S. when it was completed. The project also garnered national recognition when it won the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) “2012 Photovoltaic Project of Distinction Award.”

“The program is highly subscribed, and outperforming our expectations a year after its completion,” elaborated Paul Spencer, CEC founder and CEO. “We have proven that community owned solar works, and works well. Customers, utilities, and the solar industry are all paying attention.”

Despite their optimistic outlook, CEC and Martifer Solar USA recognize the challenges related to developing community-owned solar PV installations in the US. That’s where their partnership really yields dividends, Spencer explained.

“We invested heavily in the development of the solar garden concept, but someone has to execute. Martifer Solar USA has done so in the past and achieved the results we wanted; we are pleased to enter into new contracts with them this year, and see many more on the horizon.”

Added Martifer Solar USA chief strategy officer Kent James, “Community-owned solar has the potential to bring clean energy to five times more customers than traditional residential ownership. That potential makes this market a major strategic focus for us going forward.”

The partners are now looking to collaborate on two additional projects in Colorado: one in the service area of the San Miguel Power Association and another in that of the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association. With rated maximum capacity of 1.15-MW, the San Miguel project is shaping up to be the largest community-owned solar PV array in the country, according to the companies.

With a dedication ceremony scheduled for August 28, the Poudre Valley REA Community Solar Farm is the first community solar farm in Northern Colorado, according to project partners. The solar PV array installation allows members of the electric cooperative to purchase individual solar panels within the solar farm to offset their electric use. Phase 1 of the solar farm was sold-out before the project’s completion, and Phase 2 is actively being planned, according to CEC.

*Photo Credit: Martifer Solar USA

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

3 responses

  1. It sounds like a brilliant concept but the terms of use (
    concern me, especially the following,
    “We may
    change the service or delete features at any time and for any reason. We may
    cancel or suspend your service at any time. Our cancellation or suspension may
    be without cause and/or without notice. Upon service cancellation, your right
    to use the service stops right away. Once the service is cancelled or
    suspended, any data you have stored on the service may not be retrieved later.
    Our cancellation of the service will not alter your obligation to pay all
    charges made to your billing account. If we cancel the service in its entirety
    without cause within the first six years of service, then we will refund to you
    on a pro-rata basis the amount of any payments that you have made corresponding
    to the portion of the six years of service.”

    From what I can tell there is essentially no security for investors/customers built into the contract.

    1. Derp;

      To clarify, there are significant protections built into the purchase and ongoing maintenance of the panels customers purchase. You have incorrectly lifted a terms of software use for monitoring and reporting and tried to apply that to the sale and ongoing maintenance of a customers panels.

      Customers purchases are protected in a number of ways and most importantly by the fact that the customers panels are part of an independent trust that is responsible for the ongoing operations and maintenance of the entire community solar array, for the benefit of the panel owners. Regardless of what happens to Clean Energy Collective, our customers know that their panels will remain in service, insured and maintained for the full 50 years.

      We know of no other company that has established a customer protection as broad and deep as ours. If you would like to learn more about how customers are protected by purchasing community solar array panels, please contact one of our sales representatives at 1-800-646-0323.

      Tom Sweeney
      Chief Operating Officer
      Clean Energy Collective, LLC

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