Solar Has Bright Future in Colorado

Colorado Springs is forging ahead with its rooftop solar power development.
Published: Tue 21 Apr 2015

Solar power is experiencing major growth in both the residential and commercial markets in Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs ranked 13th in the nation in installed solar power capacity in 2014. According to the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review, Colorado added 67MW of solar electric capacity, bringing its total to 398MW-enough renewable energy to power over 76,000 homes.

Most of this solar power comes from residential rooftop solar, with commercial installations seeing a major increase. New capacity includes 42MW in the residential sector and 25MW, commercial. Together, the installations represent a $212 million investment across Colorado.

Solar provides job opportunities

Today, there are 380 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in Colorado, providing over 4,000 jobs. Significant solar projects in Colorado include:

  • The Alamosa Solar Generating Project which saw completion in 2012 by developer Cogentrix. This concentrating PV project has the capacity to generate 30MW-enough to power over 5,400 homes.

  • The Hooper Solar Project, a utility scale project, is currently under construction and is due to come online in 2016.

Several large retailers in Colorado have also gone solar, including Kohl's, REI, Safeway and Walmart.

IKEA has installed one of the largest corporate PV systems in the state with 1,120kW of solar capacity at its location in Centennial.

In addition to a growing commercial sector, the Colorado residential market also showed impressive gains last year, with installed system prices dropping by 8% — and down a total of 49% since 2010.

Community solar projects

While Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) offers incentives to customers who install solar panels, there are those who simply can’t afford to the technology. But, Denver solar firm SunShare has found a way to give everyone a fair chance at getting a piece of the sun-people can buy shares in a large collection of solar panels. Basically, community solar projects enable homes and businesses to buy power from a nearby project without having to actually install a panel.

SunShare has teamed up with a deep-pocketed partner, a subsidiary of NRG Energy, an independent energy supplier, to finance and build about 10MW of new community solar power projects in Denver and Colorado Springs. The projects will supply enough power to support 1,600 homes for 20 years. NRG Energy owns or has part investment in approximately 150 renewable energy projects totaling about 4,500MW of solar and wind capacity in the US.

“What we wanted to do is build bigger systems in the community that customers could participate in," said David Amster-Olscewski, the CEO of SunShare.

Nationwide, the U.S. residential market added 1.2GW of installed capacity in 2014, marking the first time that this growing sector surpassed 1GW of clean, affordable solar. Residential also continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50% annual growth.