Volunteers come together to help build community solar farm in Larimer County

PHOTO BLAINE HOWERTON Leaders from the Coyote Ridge Solar Project cut the ribbon at a ground breaking ceremony in August 2017.

By Blaine Howerton
North Forty News

A 9 acre solar farm is only a few weeks away from producing 1.95 mega-watts of energy to power 300 homes. Solar from the project will provide power to 150 of those homes in the low to moderate income household bracket.  6,270 solar panels will provide electricity over existing power lines to two separate power sub stations. The Poudre Valley REA project (https://www.pvrea.com/mylocalsolar) delivers solar power truly accessible to its entire member base. It is a unique model being looked at by other organizations throughout the nation.

Cartons containing solar panels will be unpacked and mounted to poles by a force of volunteers.

About 400 volunteers are building the panels with the help of hired professionals. Very unique business to business partnerships have been formed with collaboration from State officials and non-profits. “These projects are being adopted locally, if we are going to build renewable energy having access by everyone is important,” said Joseph Pereira, Director of Low-Income Energy Services for the Colorado Energy Office (http://colorado.gov/energy).

Chris Ellis, a solar educator from Colorado Mountain College, was hired as a contractor to oversee many aspects of the project. Ellis was very excited to see it all coming together. “This is a dream, said Ellis. “It’s finally a little redemption of waiting so long for something like this to happen.”

Every day about 30 volunteers are organized to carry out different tasks on the build schedule. While work isn’t easy for the volunteers, they are working as a team for a cause which will benefit the community for years to come. “For me, there’s so many things I love about community solar is that it reaches a broader client base, it can be anyone that is a PVREA member,” said Allison Moe, workforce and volunteer manager for Grid Alternatives. “And then just the number of people that you can get engaged from the community.”

Chris Ellis, a Contractor at the Coyote Ridge Solar Farm, demonstrates how the panels will move with the sun.

Grid Alternatives (https://www.gridalternatives.org) is one of the partners in the project. It is a nationally based 501c3 certified non-profit based out of California. With affiliates in several states, including Colorado, they are bringing together community partners, volunteers and job trainees, to implement solar power and energy efficiency for low-income families.

“We’ve been a member-owned co-op for over 78 years, and the core part of our business that has never changed is through cooperation together, we serve the needs of our members and enhance their lives. PVREA is continually looking for ways to serve our members’ needs, and when we first talked about this project with GRID Alternatives, we learned that this community solar project fits into our cooperative business model,” PVREA President and CEO Jeff Wadsworth explained. “This community solar project fulfills a need for all of our members – whether they’re a struggling family whose trying to pay their electric bill, a non-profit organization who needs a little help from their local co-op or a member who simply wants to support renewable energy. We’re excited to bring a project online that serves the needs of our entire membership,” said Wadsworth.

The farm is located just South of the Larimer County Landfill on land never used as a land fill. Completion is scheduled by the end of September.

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