faces_amster-olszewskiColorado Springs City Council voted Tuesday to expand the solar gardens program at Colorado Springs Utilities.

CSU will pay a performance-based incentive of 16 cents per kilowatt hour generated by up to 3 megawatts of solar panels installed in gardens during the first year of the expanded program.

The pilot program allowed for 2 megawatts and launched new business SunShare, led by 20-something David Amster-Olzewski. Two other companies specializing in community solar gardens, which allow people and businesses to buy or lease solar panels in a farm and get credit for the energy they produce on their bills, are set to move into the Colorado Springs market.

Issues with the up-front rebate prompted Utilities to propose the performance-based incentive that will spread payments to the developer during 20 years and will cut credits to the consumer from 10 cents to less than 8 cents per kilowatt hour.

Six council members voted in favor of expanding the program despite protests from business owners who said they feared their commercial electric rates would increase enough to be a hardship.

John Romero, general manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, said  the expanded program is expected to cost $22 to $33.2 million during 20 years, which translates to rate increases of 3 to 9 percent. On the high end, that could mean residential rates at the end of the 20 years would increase by up to $4.63 a year and up to $16,895 for commercial customers.

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Tim Leigh, Angela Dougan and Lisa Czelatdko voted against the program expansion.


  1. The long-term impact on Atmel, Federal Express and other heavy electric users will be worth tracking.

  2. “Tim Leigh, Angela Dougan and Lisa Czelatdko voted against the program expansion.” Only sound business decision made by outgoing Council members. How can the other 6 members justify voting when there own Utility staff said the costs would go down in less than a year, the City Auditor said there were problems, solar garden businesses said it could be written better, and large employers said it would hurt them? I wish Lisa C was still on Council. She at least read and understood the materials and wore her shoes.

  3. Why should the ratepayers subsidize this? I have not problem with renewable energy, but let those who want it pay the price. It’s not economical at this point.

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