AURORA | Aurora’s community solar garden, located at the northeast corner of East 6th Avenue and Tower Road, near Buckley Air Force Base, is about to get bigger.
On June 23, Aurora City Council gave unanimous approval to a lease agreement with Carbondale-based developer Clean Energy Collective to double the 2,119 panels that already populate the 4.5 acres of former farmland.
Under the agreement, the 500-kilowatt program will expand to 8 acres (just south of the current location) and can provide full energy rebates for an additional 150 Aurora homes, said Jim Hartman, vice president of strategic development for Clean Energy Collective. He said that with about 10 panels, an average home can produce 4,500 kilowatt hours a year, which is about what an average homeowner in Colorado pays on their yearly energy bill. He said that one solar panel in the second solar garden/array should produce approximately 450-500 kilowatt-hours per year.
The first solar garden, which was created last summer and is the only of its kind within city limits, has been two-thirds accounted for by customers. A mix of businesses and residents have purchased panels. “We know there’s a good market for this kind of a product,” he said.
He added that Aurora follows Summit County and Boulder as one of the few communities in the state to expand its solar garden beyond the initially-planned capacity. The company operates numerous solar arrays in the state, from Boulder to Breckenridge, as well as nationwide.
Clean Energy Collective created the solar garden program last June to provide an alternative for residents who can’t afford to install the panels that can cost tens of thousands dollars.
The program gives residents and business owners the option to purchase one or more of the site’s panels that start at around $900 each. The power that is produced from the panels is then credited to a customer’s monthly bill for energy.
“We always try to set up a program where at minimum, residents get $55 credit that first year,” he said.
Clean Energy Collective will lease the land from the City of Aurora for $1,000 per year per acre to install and maintain the solar arrays for subscribers. “The city government is very solar friendly,” he said of Aurora.
Aurora City Councilwoman Sally Mounier said she thinks the solar panels are a great idea for the city.
“I’m glad we could do it. I look forward to more solar gardens,” she said.