By: Amanda Froelich,
With 9 out of 10 Americans in favor of utilizing and implementing solar energy, the demand for sustainable resources is not lacking. However, the factors of introducing solar panels to extract the sun’s energy is what hinders progress. Not everyone owns their own house, some areas are too shady to catch light energy, and many just cannot cover the up-front costs to begin.
For reasons such as these, a new kind of community project has been developed. In order to provide solar energy to many residents at one time, cut costs, and inspire initiative for other communities to follow suit, the plans to create a solar garden are underway.
With this type of garden, community members can club together and invest in a large, solar array. Then, investors are also able to get a credit on their electricity bill for any energy generated. This is one way to grow community-owned renewable energy capacity, Germany being an example of this type of growth. The effort to create the world’s first community solar garden stems from the States. In 2010, Colorado worked to legalize solar garden for such endeavors, and it has finally paid off. Now Business Green reports that the lush city of Fort Collins is actively encouraging the development of solar gardens, starting with a 300 kW array:
To that end the city’s authorities are currently talking to prospective commercial partners who could deliver a 300kW ‘solar garden’ that people from across the community will be able to invest in. “The aim is to allow people who don’t have the ability to install rooftop solar panels – because the roof isn’t right or they have a tree shading their property – to get the same net metering benefit that they would have if they were able to put the solar on their roof,” explains Catanach, confirming that FortZED is currently looking at several potential sites for the ‘solar garden’ within the city limits “because people want to be able to drive past and know they own part of that”. He also predicts that if the project proves successful a second, larger development could be located out of town, allowing more people to take part in the scheme.
The scheme is part of a broader effort, called FortZED, which aims to gap the divide between companies, greener technologies, and utilities that supply the resources. Change is accelerating in the energy sector, therefore managing the balance between all involved will ensure the future provides the brightest options.
Other aspects of the scheme include development of a large wind farm, and the trials of energy storage capacity and smart grid capabilities. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab program created a video about their role in moving FortZED forward:
What may be the greatest advancement is not the implementation of solar gardens, but the reminder that when communities come together, and when the public and businesses collaborate effectively, progress can be achieved at a rate no singular party could experience. This realization may have profound implications for communities across the country.
Currently, the Solar Garden’s Institute is gathering contact information for Fort Collins residents interested in investing in a solar garden.
Watch the video: