BOULDER - The Yampa Valley Electric Association has signed a deal to purchase power from a community-owned solar array that will be built in Craig by Boulder-based Clean Energy Collective.

The agreement allows the association, a customer-owned rural electric cooperative serving northwestern Colorado, to buy 500 kilowatts of renewable energy from Clean Energy Collective's 2,100-panel array.

The association's customers can purchase solar panels for $646.25 each and receive credit on their monthly utility bill for the energy produced. Clean Energy's RemoteMeter system automatically calculates monthly credits and integrates with existing utility billing systems.

"This initiative is a very practical and economical way for us to add local renewable power to our energy mix as required by SB 252," said Diane Johnson, general manager of the association.

SB 252 is a new state law that requires rural electrical cooperatives to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, versus 10 percent today.

The association's 7,000-square-mile service territory includes the communities of Craig, Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Yampa in Colorado, and Baggs and Savery in Wyoming.

Although a final site has yet to be selected, it is common for Clean Energy to use land that is unproductive, or work with private land owners or local government entities that want to leave a legacy of environmental stewardship.

In 2010, Clean Energy established the first community-owned solar array in the country near El Jebel, Colorado. The company now operates nine community solar facilities in Colorado, New Mexico and Minnesota, generating 3.8 megawatts of clean power. It has 15 facilities under construction or approved for development, representing more than 6 megawatts of renewable energy.