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A place in the sun


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Is SunShare the Apple of Colorado Springs' eye? Well, not anymore, as the company now is headquartered in Denver. But it got its start here by building the nation's first fully subscribed community solar garden a few years ago for Colorado Springs Utilities.

Now, SunShare, started by 2009 Colorado College grad David Amster-Olszewski, is growing by leaps and bounds and holds the promise of making its founder another Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Elon Musk ("Sunblock for SunShare," Aug. 7, 2013).

The company recently fully subscribed its 2-megawatt solar garden here by signing up the city of Manitou Springs and other users, and now has more than 13 megawatts of community solar gardens under development on the Front Range, working with Xcel Energy and Fort Collins Utilities.

But SunShare is just getting started.

The city of Westminster decided last week to get power from SunShare's gardens in Jefferson and Adams counties. And SunShare now has contracts with several commercial and municipal organizations, among them Adams School District 14, Green Mountain Water District and East Cherry Creek Water District.

Amster-Olszewski says he now has 16 full-time employees and will add another six within two months. By year's end, he'll have 80 to 100 on board, he says, adding, "and the next step is 500 people," as markets open up in California, Minnesota and Massachusetts.

"We have five $6-billion-plus companies bidding to finance our projects. It's become such a hot thing. We can now pick and choose the partners that are going to help us grow our business."

SunShare's goal, he says, is to build solar projects rated at 1 gigawatt per year starting in 2018.

Amster-Olszewski's advisory board is composed of some impressive talent: Sue Woolsey, former chair of the Colorado College board and wife to Jim, former director of the CIA under President Clinton; Ron Binz, former chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission; and Tom Dinwiddie, founder of PowerLight solar company, the largest photovoltaic installer in the world, which merged with SunPower, the firm that built the Air Force Academy's 6-megawatt solar array.

"We're talking of doing a 10-megawatt solar garden," Amster-Olszewski says, which will be discussed by the Springs Utilities Board soon. But he adds that seeking opportunities elsewhere has proven lucrative: "Ninety percent of our profit is [now] outside of Colorado Springs."


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