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LPEA sets program/policy for community solar gardens

By Indiana Reed
Special to The SUN

The La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) board of directors has approved a policy, plan and application for development of Community Solar Gardens (CSG) within its service territory. Applications from private solar developers who wish to interconnect to LPEA’s system and generate electricity at their solar gardens must submit applications to the board by Dec. 31, 2013.

For purposes of LPEA, “Community Solar Garden” references a solar electric generation facility where the beneficial use of the electricity generated belongs to the subscribers of the facility.

“Subscription” refers to a proportional interest in either the solar electric generation facilities, or the energy the facility produces.

“The program is designed to provide all LPEA members, including those who have poor or no solar rooftop space, the ability to participate in solar electric generation,” said Mark Schwantes, LPEA manager of corporate services. “Members who might also benefit from a CSG are renters, low-income utility customers and agricultural producers.”

LPEA members will be able to “subscribe” to the solar garden, or in other words purchase a percentage share of the CSG from the developer. The LPEA board has designated that the “subscriber organization” or developer sell the percentage in 1 kilowatt (1,000 watt) shares. The price of the “shares” will be determined by the solar developer/subscriber organization.

“The CSG subscribers won’t get the electricity directly from any one particular panel,” explained Schwantes. “The developer will provide a monthly report to all those who own shares in the CSG, as well as to LPEA showing the electricity generated in kilowatt hours (kWh) by each subscriber. On your LPEA bill you will receive a credit towards your monthly kWh usage.”

Contractual agreements with LPEA’s primary power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, provide for locally generated electricity and support of Community Solar Gardens and interconnection to LPEA’s system. For 2014, the LPEA board has determined that no more than an aggregate of two (2) megawatts of newly-installed, interconnected generation can be approved.

“This could be one large developer, or a number of smaller CSG facilities,” said Schwantes. “We will know more when potential subscriber organizations start developing their individual plans.”

CSG developers/subscriber organizations must complete the application and abide by parameters of the policy and program. The LPEA board will approve/accept application(s) up to two megawatts of proposed power to be generated, with anticipation that the installations will take place in 2014. Subscriber organizations/developers will enter into contractual agreements with LPEA, but LPEA will have no involvement with the actual CSG “subscribers” other than to credit their bills with the kWh generated at the facility.

The CSG policy (Policy No. 366), application and the program requirements are available at www.lpea.coop or LPEA’s office in Pagosa Springs. Questions should be directed to Schwantes at 382-3511 or mschwantes@lpea.coop.

This story was posted on November 14, 2013.