Colorado Community Solarthon celebrates low-income solar access


November 01, 2016

It was just above freezing and barely light out when the City of Fort Collins crews started to arrive, sweeping sidewalks, clearing debris, laying down mulch and scouring the pavement of a parking lot where hours later, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was slated to arrive.

The occasion? GRID Alternatives Colorado’s annual Community Solarthon event and the opportunity to celebrate Colorado’s leadership on low-income solar access.

The project that Governor Hickenlooper was coming to see is a first-of-its kind, a rooftop community solar array on a municipal building being used to offset bills for qualifying customers of Fort Collins Utilities. It is one of five unique low-income community solar projects done by GRID this year, in partnership with local utilities, to pilot models for reducing the energy burden of qualifying families. Each project is slight different, but they all share the goal of reducing bills for subscribers by 50 percent or more. The pilot is a partnership with the Colorado Energy Office, which provided $1.2 million in funding to supplement investments by GRID and the participating utilities. Long-time GRID Alternatives supporter Wells Fargo has also contributed $250,000 to support the projects.

It was a perfect day for the Governor’s visit. As the icy dew cleared from the roof, more than 30 volunteers from the city, partner organizations, sponsor companies and the community got to work assembling ballasts, pulling panels to the roof, and hooking up inverters. By the time the Governor arrived, the rows of blue panels were glinting the midday sun, ready to show off. After brief remarks to the volunteers, partners, supporters and local leadership, Governor Hickenlooper put on his hard hat and safety vest and climbed the scaffolding to the roof for a tour of the system with GRID Colorado Construction Director Beth Copanas. He didn’t have time to lay a panel for us, but his continuing support for solar access is contribution enough!

Thanks to Governor Hickenlooper; the Colorado Energy Office; the City of Fort Collins; Fort Collins Utilities; Community Solarthon sponsors Wells Fargo, SunPower, Enphase Energy, New Belgium Brewery, BriteStreet Energy Group, and Ironridge; and all the volunteers who gave their time to help make the day, and the project, a great success! Click here for photos.