Gov. Ritter signs bill for new solar gardens in Colorado

Gov. Bill Ritter signed legislation on June 5, 2010 that will let renters and others who are unable to install solar panels on their own roofs to join forces and create community “solar gardens.”

With lawmakers, New Energy Economy advocates and utility officials at his side, Gov. Ritter signed House Bill 1342 atop Boulder’s downtown parking garage, saying that all rooftops have the potential to power America toward a clean-energy future. Colorado expects to have 100,000 solar rooftops by 2020.

“The concept of community-owned solar projects is gaining traction nationally, and Colorado’s New Energy Economy is once again showing the nation the way forward,” said Gov. Ritter. “Over the past few years, I have signed dozens of clean-energy bills.

“These new laws are making Colorado a national and international new-energy leader,” the Governor said. “They are creating thousands of new jobs. They are driving new innovations and new technologies. And they are making renewable, sustainable and clean energy more affordable and accessible to people and businesses throughout the state. Today, we move the New Energy Economy forward yet again.”

HB 1342, sponsored by Rep. Claire Levy and Sen. Suzanne Williams, allows renters and homeowners and businesses without solar access to own a portion of an off-site solar farm. Subscribers in a solar garden will own a fraction of the system and reap the same financial benefits through utility bill savings as if the system was physically installed on their home or business.

“A community solar garden is the perfect way to expand the opportunity for families and businesses to use home-grown solar power,” Rep. Levy said. “It allows anyone to use solar energy, even if they don’t own their home or the building in which their business is located. With HB 1342, utility customers in shaded homes, renters, condo and townhome dwellers, and even small businesses that rent their space, will be able to get the same benefits of solar energy as having the panels on their own roof.  The bill creates yet more ways to get Coloradans off of dirty fossil fuels and onto renewable energy.”

Gov. Ritter also signed Senate Bill 156, sponsored by Sen. Rollie Heath and Rep. Dickey Lee  Hullinghorst, which expands the rights of mobile home owners in Colorado.

“Mobile home owners and landlords have a unique relationship when it comes to property rights, and I believe this bill strikes a great middle ground,” said Gov. Ritter. “The bill provides a new balance between mobile home owners and landlords and it establishes a much-needed dialogue between these two parties. The bill shows the legislative process can actually bring people together to find real solutions to real problems.

“This is a terrific consumer protection bill,” Rep. Hullinghorst said. “It expands the current protections for owners of mobile homes and it adds new rights to fix the old imbalance of power between landlords and owners. Finally, mobile home owners in private parks can count on basic utilities: a decent power supply and reliable water and sewage service.”

“Community solar gardens expand the number of customers who can participate in and take advantage of solar,” said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company. “This new law allows those who cannot afford or cannot put solar on their roof or property an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of solar generation.”

“We are delighted that Gov. Ritter has chosen to recognize the role that Boulder played in shaping both of these important bills, and we’d like to thank all of the elected officials and community members who helped make them possible,” said Boulder Mayor Susan Osborne. “We are looking forward to the positive impacts these laws will have.”

For a complete list of Gov. Ritter’s 2010 legislation decisions, visit www.colorado.gov/governor.