Levy’s solar garden bill advances after stormy start

Community solar gardens got a boost last week when the The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (CoSEIA)y forged a compromise with Claire Levy, state representative from Boulder, the heart of solar power research and green energy entrepreneurialism in the state.

The Association withdrew its opposition to thesolar gardens bill after meeting with Levy and hammering out two amendments aimed at addressing the concerns of local solar installers.

solar garden

Breaking with state renewable energy proponents, CoSEIA opposed the original version of the bill for the negative impact the organization believed it would have on solar installers.

The two sides clashed over vocabulary and math.

Solar gardens are meant to benefit renters, low-income residents and home owners who live in the shade. By pooling resources these Coloradans can set up “gardens” of solar panels from which to draw inexpensive clean electricity. In the original version of the bill these gardens were categorized as “community-based projects” or CPBs. Problem is that the state encourages community-based projects by considering every CPB solar panel worth 1.5 rooftop panels.

As CoSEIA Executive Director Neal Lurie explained, that would just result in power companies installing more community-based panels but less panels overall. That he said wouldn’t be good for the state, the environment or local solar panel industry. That small language category could reduce the amount of solar installed in the state by 30MW over the next ten years.

Levy feared installers were more concerned with their business than what was right for the public. In the end she agreed to adjust the bill by removing the explicit label of “community-based project” by placing a 20 percent cap for the next three years on how much utilitiers can receive from solar “farms” as a percent of state mandated “distributed generation” – dispersed renewable energy projects.

The amendments protect local solar installers by ensuring that utilities do not rely on heavily on solar “farms” to reach renewable energy quotas recently set by the state in HB 1001.

Levy’s bill has passed in the House and is pending introduction to the Senate.

“I am happy we were able to reach an agreement and move forward on a bill that will ensure the widest possible access to roof-top solar,” said Levy.

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