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Sangre De Cristo Electric Association’s (SDCEA) Trout Creek Solar project has been operational since Jan. 31, 2019. Now, SDCEA is hard at work in implementing the community solar carve-out desired by consumers.

“Doing a carve-out of the [Trout Creek Solar] project is complicated, and we have to get it right,” said SDCEA Chief Executive Officer Paul Erickson. “We’re still finalizing metering and billing parameters. These things still aren’t completely figured out.”

The solar array just south of the Buena Vista Correctional Complex (Courtesy of SDCEA)

Currently, about 40 percent of SDCEA’s energy output is garnered from renewable sources. More than seven percent is generated from local, renewable energy sources. The remaining 30 percent is provided via wind, solar, and water energy sources from SDCEA’s wholesale energy provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Trout Creek Solar is projected to generate between four and  five percent of SDCEA’s annual energy usage. That means every consumer of SDCEA is receiving between four and five percent of their household energy from solar.

The solar panels, located on 20 acres just south of the Buena Vista Correctional Complex, will generate around 5,700 Megawatt Hours (MWh) of energy. This is enough energy to power 685 standard SDCEA consumer homes. SDCEA services roughly 13,000 homes in Central Colorado.

The panels are also outfitted with solar tracking technology, allowing SDCEA to maximize the output of the solar array and optimize efficiency.

Due to its not-for-profit status, SDCEA doesn’t receive the tax benefit for producing solar energy on its own. Instead, SDCEA contracted Juwi Inc., an international wind and solar energy company, to build the panels. SDCEA will then purchase the solar energy from Juwi to supply its consumers.

“When [operating] on a utility scale, it’s cheaper for our members for a for-profit company to build and sell power to us,” said Erickson.

Developing the additional solar carve-out program is a process that demands considerable time and effort to complete.

“We are trying to determine an equitable way to sell that power to others without subsidizing it,” explained Erickson. “The task at hand is to dial in numbers that are fair for everyone.”

The takeaway? SDCEA is actively working on the community solar carve-out and is determined to implement it effectively and fairly.

“This is for the benefit of every member of Sangre De Cristo Electric,” said Erickson.