MONTROSE - Want a little piece of the sun but can’t afford solar panels? Now solar power will be available to Delta Montrose Electric Association members, thanks to two brand new, 10-kW photovoltaic solar arrays.
DMEA invites its members to a Friday, Feb. 11 celebration to help kick off the electric co-op’s Local Power Partnership program, when it will give tours of its new solar installations at company headquarters just north of Montrose and the Read Service Center east of Delta. The Montrose ceremony will be held 10-11 a.m. at DMEA headquarters at 11925 6300 Road, and a second ceremony will take place from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Service Center at 21191 H75 Road, outside of Delta.
According to the company website, dmea.com, DMEA has been looking at ways to allow its members to buy into solar. “The basic idea was to come up with a system where members could buy a share of the array, and in return, receive credit on their bills for their portion,” the site states.
To buy into the system, members will pay a one-time fee, said DMEA spokesman Tom Polikalis, which could range from $50 on up -- maybe less -- to lease a portion of the solar arrays.
“Then you will see an actual credit on your bill for whatever portion you’re leasing,” Polikalis said. “Whether you put in $50 or $500 or $5,000, it will be the same proportionally.”
The cost of the two arrays was about $200,000, of which $60,000 was provided by a grant from the Governor’s Energy Office, he said.
As soon as DMEA sells enough shares in the two solar arrays to pay for their construction, the company will start work on adding more solar arrays, Polikalis said, which will give more people the chance to buy into locally produced solar energy.
“It’s open to all members, and schools could even do a drive to help lower their bills,” he said. The “specific economics” of the minimum amount that members must put up to buy into the solar arrays will be revealed at the Feb. 11 meetings.
“We’re hoping the first one will go fairly quickly,” he said.
But if any DMEA customers want to jump on the bandwagon early and reserve a certain amount of the solar energy, they should send an email to email@example.com, he added.
The solar arrays were built by Cam Electric, which put in the low bid, Polikalis said
“The background is that photovoltaic and solar is still expensive, but there’s a lot of support for access to solar power,” he said. “Suppose you rent and the owner doesn’t want you to put up panels, or you don’t have access to southern exposure?”
DMEA is one of 44 member distribution systems that receive most of their energy from Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Most of Tri-State’s power comes from coal-fired power plants, but DMEA is trying to create more local power, not only through solar arrays, but also by the creation of a small hydroelectric generation plant at the headwaters of South Canal, where water bursts forth from the Gunnison Tunnel in eastern Montrose County.
Jim Heneghan of DMEA, a renewable energy engineer, is heading up both the solar array and the hydroelectric projects, Polikalis said.
Plans for the hydro plant were announced last fall at a celebration honoring the 100th anniversary of the construction of the tunnel, which brings water from the Gunnison River at the bottom of Black Canyon through six miles of solid rock to the Uncompahgre Valley.