DMEA has just built two more new 10 kW “community solar arrays” said Company Spokesman Tom Polikalis, and shares will go on sale today, July 14. Atlasta Solar built the arrays, with one in Montrose and one in Delta.
Each $10 lease generates about 50 cents of electricity per year and the value of electricity generated is increased over the 25 years of the lease as the price of conventional electricity rises, Polikalis explained.
DMEA’s board of directors approved a solar tariff last spring, he said, whereby DMEA members can lease part of the solar array for at little as $10.
Each $10 provides the member with 2.67 watts of solar capacity. Most of the 84 leases sold, 47 percent, were in the $10 to $100 range. Leases valued at between $101 and $500 made up 17 percent of the sales; 9 percent of the leases were bought by people (or businesses) who paid between $501 and $1,000, and 4 percent went to those who paid $5,000 or more.
Buckhorn Geotech bought $500 worth of leases, Polikalis said. Laurie Brandt, a Buckhorn geologist, said the company sees the solar project “as a tangible step in the right direction to endure that our community has a greener future.
“We are excited to see DMEA’s efforts to bring renewable energy resources such as solar energy and hydropower projects to our region, and we want to do everything we can to help,” she said.
To learn more about how to get on board with the newly available solar leases, go to www.dmea.com or call DMEA at 1-877-687-3637.
But it’s the lower range of leases that Polikalis would like to see expanded, he said.
“We are hoping in the $10, $20 and $30 range to get more people involved,” he said. “But it was almost a surprise the amount some people put in that came in at fairly substantial.”
An average home uses about 9,000 kW per year, Polikalis said, and each lease will generate about 5.8 kW per year. In other words, he said, each 10,000 kW array could roughly power two-and-a-half homes for a year.
Polikalis said he has bought into the solar array, and feels good about it.
“It was cool to get a dime of last month’s electric bill,” he said. “I switched from paying $1.25 per month extra for “green power” outside our service area to saving a bit from power generated locally.”
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 waters 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 project, which is still in the planning stages, 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.
DMEA plans to keep building solar arrays as long as the community supports them, and the fact that leases to the first array sold out in a short time is a good sign, Polikalis said.
The additional 20,000 kW from the two new solar arrays will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, Polikalis said.
“With 20,000 watts of capacity available in these two arrays, I expect that these two new arrays will also sell out fairly quickly,” he said. “However, if there’s more demand for solar leases than these two new arrays can accommodate, we hope to install more arrays in the future to match our members’ interest in this program.”
Polikalis points to Buckhorn’s investment as a way that businesses can save money, a little now, and a lot over the long run, not to mention the positive effect on the planet.
“DMEA estimates that Buckhorn Geotech’s lease of 133.5 watts of solar photovoltaic capacity will save the company roughly $26 a year in 2011 dollars,” he said. “The value of solar-generated electricity is expected to increase over time with inflation and an expected rise in the cost of conventional power.”