SunShare to build new garden

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SunShare got approval last night to build its second community solar garden at McAuliffe Elementary School in partnership with Colorado Springs School District No. 11.

The start-up, which opened the first community solar garden of its kind in the state at Venetucci Farm in the fall, will develop another 575-kilowatt solar array on two-acres at the elementary school.

SunShare allows people to pay upfront for a 20-year lease on a solar panel that will produce energy for the Colorado Springs Utilities grid and credit the bill of the person leasing the panel.

David Amster-Olszewski, founder and owner of SunShare, said the new system is already almost sold out.

“The goal on this one is to sell out the project before we break the dirt,” Amster-Olszewski said. “I think we’re just a couple weeks away from doing that.”

He said he started plans for this project with a list of people who wanted to participate because they didn’t get in on the Venetucci project before it sold out.

The land that District 11 offered for the project is a south-facing ditch.

“It’s very hard to develop for anything else,” Amster-Olszewski said. ‘But it’s perfect for solar.”

SunShare will pay to lease the land with a combination of cash and solar panels, Amster-Olszewski said.

The Venetucci lease was paid entirely with a contract on a certain number of the panels, but the school district preferred a combination, he said.

He expects to have the project finished before the beginning of the school year in the early fall.

Amster-Olszewski said he’s also looking to grow outside of Colorado Springs. The Public Utilities Commission is still working on regulations for community solar gardens after the state legislature passed a law allowing and making solar gardens easier to start.

“We’re already working on land agreements for two projects in Denver that we hope to start as soon as they approve the regulations,” Amster-Olszewski said.