New Castle considers community solar park
Post Independent Contributor
NEW CASTLE — Residents may be able to zap some money off their electric bills if they approve a proposed new community solar park on a town-owned, five-acre parcel of property north of the Castle Valley Ranch subdivision.
Town council members discussed the idea at their board meeting last week and will hold a community meeting at the end of the month to get public feedback on the idea.
“This really would be a very good thing for the town,” said Mayor Bob Gordon. “You don’t have to have the panels on your house, and you don’t have to maintain them. It won’t cost the town anything.”
The solar energy park would be run by Clean Energy Collective (CEC), which develops community-owned solar arrays. Community solar arrays are centralized photovoltaic (PV) power facilities that deliver renewable energy to an electric utility’s grid. The utility’s customers, including residences, businesses and tax-exempt organizations, can own or lease solar panels in the array without having to install panels on their own rooftop or property. In return, customers receive credits on monthly electric bills. Customers can own as many panels as they choose.
“This one in New Castle is so new as it only became a viable option this week, that we don’t know the details yet,” said Todd Davidson, director of marketing for CEC. “But the [customer] savings depends on how many panels you want.”
Cost of the panels can run anywhere from $500 to $900, depending on the market and the size of the array. New Castle is looking at a 500kW park with about 1,600 panels.
“This will not be an overwhelming presence,” Davidson said. “It’s a community array that is built in the community, for the community and powers the community.”
The town expects to lease the property to CEC.
He pointed out that CEC had built a similar solar array in Boulder in April 2013. Customers’ collective electric bill saving in the first year were $54,600 with renewable energy credit payments during that time of $74,700.
“One of the most important things is that nothing goes on your roof, and you can see your savings right on your electric bill,” Davidson said. “And anybody on an electric meter can participate.”
If you move from your home, your bill credits and savings move with you, and if you move from the area, you can sell your system.
“This gives people a way to participate in the use of solar energy that they might not otherwise,” said Town Administrator Tom Baker. “You subscribe to a panel, and the energy produced from the panel offsets your energy bill.”
The public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. July 29 at the New Castle Community Center.
“It will be an opportunity to learn about community solar arrays in more detail,” Davidson said. “They can learn about the environmental impacts, the financial impacts and the job impacts. We try to use as many local contracts as we possibly can. If everyone in the community buys into it, the savings they get month to month will make it back into the community. People may take that money and go out to eat more.”
If the community gives the green light, the solar park could be completed 90 days after the start of construction.
For more information about the meeting, call New Castle Town Hall at 984-2311.
The council also said the community is invited to attend a meeting to discuss a proposed Community Sports Park at the entrance of the Lakota Canyon Ranch subdivision on a six-acre piece of property at Castle Valley Boulevard and Clubhouse Drive, across from the existing pool.
“We’re applying for a “GOCO (Great Outdoors Colorado lottery fund) grant,” Baker said. “The park will include a Tot Lot, two tennis courts, two sand volleyball courts and two pickleball courts.”
The town-owned park will also have benches and trails and will be open to all New Castle residents — not just residents of the subdivision.
Cost of the park is estimated at $600,000-$700,000.
The meeting will be held from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday at New Castle Town Hall.
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