GCEA and the Town of Crested Butte have a solar solution for co-op members. GCEA’s Community Solar Garden is a way for you to support and benefit from electricity generated by solar energy. Members are eligible to lease solar panels. Each panel is anticipated to produce approximately 1.3 kWh per day on average.
This project is fully subscribed, but we are taking names for a waiting list and anticipate offering something similar from another project in the near future. As panels become available at this project they will be offered to the next-in-line on the waiting list under either of the following options. Please call us at (970) 641-3520 to get on the waiting list.
How Long is the Lease?
OPTION #1 – Short-Term Lease:
Solar panels may be leased on a month-to-month basis. The solar panel lease price is $4.71 per month, offered in monthly increments from the 1st to the end of the month. The solar panel lease price, along with the community solar garden credit for generation, will appear on your bill, beginning the month following the signup. For example, the credit for generation from October 1-31 will show on your November bill. To allow more members to participate, there is a 5-panel limit per member. We will accommodate members wishing to lease a solar panel by contacting them when a panel becomes available or when we expand the solar array.
OPTION #2 – Long-Term Lease:
GCEA has a 20-year lease with the town of Crested Butte, which began November 2018. That means if you were to lease a panel starting in January of 2020, you would only be leasing that panel for 18 years and 10 months. The price of the lease will be prorated depending on when the panel is leased. The full twenty-year price is $850. View the Community Solar Garden Agreement (PDF) for more details or call our headquarters office at 1-800-726-3523 or 970-641-3520 and ask for Roger Grogg or Josie Casebolt.
How is My Solar Production Credit Calculated?
The Solar Garden consists of 20-250 watt solar panels and 52-290 watt solar panels. All generation will be metered. If you lease one panel your bill offset will be a bill credit of 1/72nd of the total production. For example, if the Solar Garden produces 660 kWh in May then 660/72=9.167 kWh. The Solar Garden Rate (SGR), which will closely resemble the residential rate, will equal the bill credit. Example 9.167 kWh x $0.13 = $1.20. The (SGR) will increase as GCEA’s rates increase over the years allowing for a larger credit to your electric bill.
What About Maintenance?
GCEA is responsible for all maintenance and insurance for the Solar Garden.
Can I sell My Panel Lease?
The only way you can transfer the panel lease is through GCEA. As long as you reside in and are paying for electric service in GCEA’s territory, the lease will not be transferred and the bill credit will be applied to your active GCEA account. If you relocate outside GCEA’s territory, you can transfer the solar credits to someone that still resides in the service territory. GCEA will not repurchase the solar lease from you.
If you choose the monthly lease option, you may cancel at the beginning of any month.
GCEA’s power supply contract with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a typical all-requirements contract. However, a provision was added to the contract in 2001 that allows GCEA to self-supply up to 5% of its annual power requirements.
GCEA’s current franchise agreement with the Town of Crested Butte contains the following provision.
“The Town and GCEA have goals to study, evaluate and implement clean, sustainable, reliable electrical energy sources that are economically prudent and provide affordable alternatives to conventional electric generation methods. The Town and GCEA agree to cooperate as appropriate to develop plans that meet these objectives and the goals as outlined in the Town’s Energy Action Plan.”
In 2014, GCEA reached agreement with the Town of Crested Butte for use of the roof at the Town’s waste water treatment plant. The GCEA Board voted unanimously in favor of the project. The first 20 panels (5 kW) were installed in July of that year. The panels were offered to members under a 20-year lease for $1,100, which equaled the cost per panel of the project construction. GCEA did not include the cost of insurance, property tax or anticipated maintenance in the panel lease price. Over the next four years, only 13 of the panels were leased to members.
In 2018, GCEA and the Town agreed to expand the array to fill the available roof space. The GCEA Board voted unanimously in favor of the expansion. The expansion added 52 panels bringing the array to a total of 72 panels (20 kW). Owing to the economies of scale and other factors the price for a 20-year lease was reduced to $850. All long-term leases end on October 31, 2038 so members subscribing after November 2018 paid a reduced lease price corresponding to the remaining lease term. Members who subscribed to the original 13 panels were granted a no-cost four-year extension of their lease.
On October 1, 2019, with 48 panels still available, GCEA rolled out a month-to-month lease option at a monthly cost of $4.71. On October 22, the last panel was leased.
In November 2019, the GCEA Board unanimously approved the construction of up to 100 kW of community solar in 2020.
Current Status of the Project
The community solar garden is fully subscribed, but GCEA is taking names of interested members for a waiting list in anticipation of additional capacity in the near future. Twenty-four of the panels are held by members under long-term leases and 48 panels are claimed by members under month-to-month leases.
GCEA is looking for potential sites, either bare ground or compatible roof space. Our goal is to increase the capacity of community solar by 100 kW in 2020 utilizing one or more sites.