Solar More Than Solo: Community Energy Gardens Growing In Power

With the opportunities for sustainable energy sources growing more acceptable, abundant, and affordable every day, it behooves the users of such power to understand its possible new impact for entire communities at large.  After all, once the tides (and windmills, and solar panels) turn to making sustainable energy the main source of power for communities in the way that nuclear or gas have previously, large numbers of people will all be invested in the infrastructure together.  Now, that idea has sprouted a garden of its own...

No sunflowers, but lots of sun power getting harvested in a solar garden.
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According to Yahoo News, community "solar gardens" are a new plan to make solar energy available to those who currently find purchasing their own panels an impractical or unaffordable idea.  Having commenced in Colorado, the idea has since moved on to Massachusetts, Minnesota, and California, with others seeking to join the solar garden party this year.

A solar garden brightens up some lives in Rockford, Minnesota.
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Available for companies or community residents alike, the solar gardens harvest power from communal solar panels and send it to the local grid.  Those who sign up for the solar power get credits on their utility bills.  Even better, the advent of cheaper and more effective solar panels over the coming years may reduce those bills dramatically.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (a division of the U.S. Department of Energy) indicates that only about a quarter of Americans have their own rooftop solar panels.  Community solar gardens could help spread the wealth to those who have shaded roofs, do not own their own homes, or simply cannot afford the current technology.

Got a large, flat, sunny roof?  Start spreading the sunshine!
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The state of California has taken the mission even further, requiring three of their largest utilities to create 600 megawatts of solar capacity, the largest of which could aid between 30,000 and 50,000 homes.  Meanwhile in Minnesota, Fortune 500 sanitation company Ecolab powers nearly all of their St. Paul operation thanks to a suburban garden of solar panels.  The idea is a good one, for a vast array of energy requirements.

A sunny outlook.
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Jonathan Marshall, a spokesman from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., said that the enthusiasm generated by such projects was, well, electric.  "A large number of our customers simply can't go solar on their own," he said, adding, "This is a tremendous opportunity for them to go to 100 percent solar if they want it."

Like the Beatles said, "Here comes the's all right."  Now, sharing solar power may be an important next step to community-minded improvements for sustainable living.

A powerful idea spreads in Minnesota.  Will your community be the next to shine?
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