After the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill this year aimed at expanding the use of community solar gardens, the Public Utilities Commission is taking public comment through the end of this week on proposed new rules.
House Bill 19-1003 raised the maximum allowable capacity of community solar gardens from two to five megawatts, and that number will increase to 10 in 2023. The Denver Post reports that one megawatt of solar energy can power 200 to 250 homes.
People whose homes are not suited for solar panels may subscribe to the gardens, which utilities hook up to their grid. The legislation also now allows subscribers of solar gardens to live outside the county where the facility is located, as long as they are within the service area of the utility.
Xcel Energy has limited community solar gardens to 30 to 40 megawatts per year, but a PUC proposal would boost that amount to 3% of the utility’s retail sales, a more than tenfold increase.
A 2015 report from the Colorado Energy Office found that there were 20 community solar facilities within the state’s investor owned utilities’ territory, all but one of which were in Xcel’s service area. A 2010 law requires at least 5% of solar garden subscribers to be low income, a threshold the 20 facilities met exactly.