Fri April 4, 2014

Solar Power Without Rooftop Panels May Be Coming Soon

Xcel Energy is asking state regulators to create a new option for Coloradans who want at least some of their electricity to come from solar power – but who can’t or don’t wish to put solar panels on their rooftops.

Under the proposed Solar*Connect program, customers could subscribe for a portion of the power produced by an independent, large-scale solar plant.

The idea is to make solar more widely available without requiring major installation work.

"Large-scale solar is the most cost-effective solar, and we saw some value for all of our customers," says Jonathan Adelman, Xcel Energy’s Director of Retail Market Strategy. "Rooftop is obviously limited to customers that can finance it, or own their roof. There are restrictions on the accessibility of that program."

The program will allow customers to buy solar power in blocks equal to 25 percent of their monthly usage, up to the entire amount of usage.

It’s similar to Xcel Energy’s WindSource program, which has about 36,000 residential and business subscribers in Colorado. Customers pay a premium of $2.16 for each 100 kilowatt-hour block of wind-based power each month.

Under the Solar*Connect program, customers would pay their regular monthly bill plus the premium for a block of solar power. Adelman says that cost hasn’t been determined yet.

The program still needs to be approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Upon approval, Solar*Connect could be operational by 2015.