When it comes to solar energy, Colorado shines. Sunny days rule for more than a third of the year, and this abundant resource is harnessed through government-supported policies. In 2004, Colorado’s residents approved the nation’s first Renewable Portfolio Standards, and today the state’s RPS calls for 30 percent of the state’s electricity to be from renewable resources by 2020. Find information on electricity costs, solar panels, rebates, incentives, and energy programs in Colorado.

Colorado’s Solar
Report Card

Grade
Methodology

To determine a grade for each state, our researchers and solar experts analyzed data on crucial solar-advancement criteria from the following sources:

We determined a rank from 1 to 10 for each state in each category. We then combined the scores with the following weights and assigned an overall grade for each state. Our goal is to encourage those considering solar for their homes to get a basic understanding of solar potential in their areas and discover the best opportunities for clean energy available.

Incentives & Rebates, 40%

Electricity Rate, 15%

Renewable Energy Policy, 30%

Interconnection Ease, 5%

Photovoltaic Potential, 10%

Electricity Costs in Colorodo

Colorado’s residential electricity costs are about $.12/kWh, close to the U.S. residential average. While higher electricity costs generally spur increased investment in solar, Colorado’s interest in solar is helped by the fact that solar installation costs in the state continue to drop, and solar customers enjoy certain tax exemptions, rebates and net metering. However, Colorado still has far to go to reach its 2020 RPS goal; in 2014, only about 18 percent of the state’s electricity came from renewable energy resources, mostly wind turbines and hydroelectric facilities.

Cost of Residential Electricity

Data from U.S. Energy Information Administration
*as of Q3 2015

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Resource Library

CO Solar Policies & Incentives

The key to Colorado’s solar success lies in its first-in-the-nation Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. This requirement has prompted the state’s utility companies to offer rebates worth thousands of dollars. In addition, utilities are required to offer net metering, or paying solar customers for the excess energy they contribute to the grid. Although Colorado does not offer a tax credit for solar installations, customers are entitled to certain property and sales tax exemptions. Several financial options also are available for solar panel installations, including leasing and third party financing.

REBATES/INCENTIVES

La Plata Electric Association Renewable Generation Rebate Program

A rebate is available to residential and small business customers who install a solar photovoltaic system or other renewable resource facility. Eligible systems are grid-tied within LPEA’s service area. For systems less than 10 kW, there is an upfront incentive of $100. Performance-based incentives are paid every six months for systems greater than 10 kW.

Holy Cross Energy Renewable Energy Rebate

The WE CARE (With Efficiency, Conservation And Renewable Energy) Program offers rebates for renewable energy generation systems, including solar photovoltaics. The rebate is $750 per kW for the first 6 kW of a system, $500 per kW for the next 6 kW, and $200 per kW for the next 13 kW of a system.

San Miguel Power Association Renewable Energy Rebate Program

Both residential and commercial customers may be eligible for rebates for installing and owning solar photovoltaic systems. Rebates for residential systems are $0.75 per watt up to 3 kW or $2,250. Rebates for commercial systems are $0.75 per watt up to 10 kW or $7,500.

Colorado Springs Utilities Renewable Energy Rebate Program

Businesses and residential customers who install grid-connected solar photovoltaic systems are eligible for a rebate of $0.25 per watt. For 2016, nearly $490,000 has been budgeted for residential and commercial customers in the rebate program.

Xcel Energy Solar Rewards Program

Customers who install grid-connected PV systems up to 120 percent of their average yearly power load may be eligible for performance-based incentives of $0.02/kWh for the first 10 years of production, in exchange for renewable energy credits produced by their system.

Black Hills Energy Solar Power Program

A performance-based incentive of $0.05/kWh or $0.075/kWh is available for photovoltaic systems up to 100 kW. In exchange, the utility earns renewable energy credits.

Elevations Energy Loans

Low-interest loans are available for a variety of renewable energy projects, including solar photovoltaics. Projects must be in Boulder County or the City and County of Denver. There is a $25 processing fee and applicants must become members of the Elevations Credit Union.

Mountain Parks Electric, Inc. Green Power

Renewable energy rebates are available for solar projects. MPEI members’ voluntary contributions fund the rebates. Contributions total more than $28,000 a year. Residential maximum rebate is $1,000; commercial maximum rebate is $8,000.

Energy Smart Colorado Loan Program

Loans are available in Eagle, Garfield, Gunnison, Lake and Pitkin counties to help homeowners identify, finance and complete energy improvements, including solar photovoltaic systems. Interest rates range from 3.75 to 8.5 percent for amounts as low as $1,000 to $25,000.

Energy Savings Mortgage Incentive for Existing Homes

Individuals who buy an existing home and make energy efficient or renewable energy upgrades within 120 days of purchase, or through a refinance on a first mortgage, may be eligible for the mortgage incentive. The benefit amount is based on a Home Energy Score determined by a qualified assessor.

Fort Collins Utilities Home Efficiency Loan Program

Residential customers may be eligible for low-interest loans to finance up to the full cost of renewable energy projects, including solar photovoltaics, at existing homes. Loan repayment is bundled into customers’ monthly utility bills and can last up to 20 years.

lder County EnergySmart Commercial Energy Efficiency Rebate Program

Solar photovoltaic systems and other renewable energy projects may be eligible for rebates up to $10,000. The system must first demonstrate energy efficiency performance or improvement before the rebate is issued. The total of incentives is limited to 70 percent of the cost of eligible measures.

POLICIES

Renewable Energy Standard

Colorado requires each investor-owned utility to directly generate, or cause to be generated, 30 percent of its retail electricity sales from renewable resources by 2020. At least 3 percent must come from distributed energy resources, including small-scale solar photovoltaic installations.

Net metering

Utilities are required to provide net metering to customer generators. Net excess generation is rolled over as a credit to the customer’s next bill. Any credits left over at the end of a year must be paid for at the utility’s average hourly incremental cost.

Solar Construction Permitting Standards

Building permits are required before solar PV systems can be installed in Colorado. Permits may be obtained from counties and municipalities. Fees are capped at no more than $500 for a residential application and $1,000 for nonresidential application.

Interconnection Standards

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission oversees interconnection standards that apply to investor-owners utilities with 40,000 or more customers. There are three levels of interconnection for systems up to 10 MW.

City and County of Denver Solar Panel Permitting

Same-day permit review is provided for most solar photovoltaic projects. Required permits for PV projects include electrical, plumbing and zoning. More complex projects might be required to go through a separate Plan Review process.

Solar, Wind and Energy Efficiency Easements and Rights Laws

State law prohibits neighborhood covenants from restricting solar access, although some exceptions can be made for aesthetic requirements that do not significantly increase the cost of the installation or decrease its performance. Property owners may voluntarily agree to solar easements.

None for commercial specifically

TAX CREDITS

City of Boulder Sales and Use Tax Rebate

Owners of solar photovoltaic systems may receive a tax refund of 35 percent of the amount paid in taxes for purchase and installation. The average rebate is about $140 for a 4.5 kW photovoltaic system.

None for residential specifically

Enterprise Zone Tax Credit Refund for Renewable Energy Projects

An income tax credit is available to qualified businesses that use renewable energy, including solar photovoltaics. The credit equals 3 percent of the investment up to $750,000 in a tax year. Instead of a credit, participants can request a refund of 80 percent of the tax credit.

EXEMPTIONS

Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Equipment

All sales, storage and use of components used in generating AC electricity from solar photovoltaics and other renewable energy sources are exempt from state sales and use taxes.

Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Equipment

Personal property that is used to produce energy is exempt from state property taxes. The solar photovoltaic system of no more than 100 kW capacity must be located on the resident’s property and produce electricity primarily for the resident’s use.

None for commercial specifically

Colorado Companies, Contractors & Solar Panel Installers

About 5,000 people are employed in Colorado’s solar industry, working for nearly 400 companies that handle installation, manufacturing and distribution of solar panels and components, as well as in solar legal support and financing. Homeowners have a wide range of options in choosing a contractor to design and install a solar system, and Colorado homeowners have also seen average installation prices drop about 49 percent since 2010. Here is a list of some of the contractors available to install solar in Colorado:

Alpine Solar Design

Alpine Solar Design handles installation of solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems.

Where it operatesSilverthorne, CO

Year of opening1996

Arise Energy Solutions

AES designs and installs solar systems ranging in power from 1 kW to hundreds of kilowatts, depending on available space. Employees are is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

Where it operatesDenver and Jefferson counties

Year of opening2008

ARE Solar

Operating across central Colorado, ARE Solar builds solar systems ranging from 3 kW residential systems to large megawatt systems for commercial customers.

Where it operatesDenver and Boulder counties

Year of opening2008

Bella Energy

Bella Energy offers a full range of services from consulting, design, installation, and financing.

Where it operatesBoulder and Denver counties

Year of opening2002

Burnham & Sun

The company sells products for both grid-tied and off-grid solar systems, including solar photovoltaic modules, batteries and backup generators, and also provides installation and repair services.

Where it operatesBoulder, Larimer and Weld counties

Year of opening2000

Complete Energy Solutions, LLC

The company offers solar photovoltaic systems and backup generators, as well as systems designed for off-grid usage.

Where it operatesNorth-central Colorado, including Denver

Year of opening2002

Peak View Solar

This family-owned business offers affordable solar solutions for both residential and commercial customers.

Where it operatesEl Paso County

Year of opening2008

Independent Power Systems

IPS uses in-house engineers and certified installers in providing solar systems to individual homeowners and businesses.

Where it operatesNorth-central Colorado

Year of opening1996

Innovative Energy

The company specializes in designing solar systems especially suited for the elevation, weather and climatic conditions of Colorado’s high country.

Where it operatesNorth-central Colorado

Year of opening1991

Namaste Solar

This employee-owned, award-winning companies offers business and residential customers customized solar installations.

Where it operatesAdams, Broomfield, Boulder, Denver, Jefferson and Larimer counties

Year of opening2005

Renewable Energy Outfitters

The company installs both grid-tied and off-grid solar systems for remote locations, as well as providing backup solar power.

Where it operatesCentral Colorado

Year of opening2008

Rocky Mountain Solar and Wind

The company provides design, sales, and installation services for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Where it operatesEl Paso County

Year of opening1975

Southard Solar

Southad Solar offers a variety of solar services, including installation, removal, and upgrades, as well as systems designed for off-grid usage and a line of small, solar-powered homes.

Where it operatesFront Range and Boulder

Year of opening1987

Sunlight Solar

Sunlight Solar provides free consultations, installation services, and various financing options for residential and commercial clients.

Where it operatesStatewide

Year of opening1985

Sunsense Solar

In addition to residential and commercial customers, Sunsense provides solar systems to public-sector clients and utilities.

Where it operatesWestern Colorado

Year of opening1984

Suntalk Solar

As part of its evaluation process, Suntalk works with customers to integrate other home technologies with their solar systems.

Where it operatesDenver County

Year of opening1996

Sustainable Solutions

After building their own home powered by solar energy, SSI’s founders started the company to provide the service to others. Today, the company specializes in off-grid applications.

Where it operatesCentral Colorado

Year of opening1989

Resources

Colorado State Energy Office

Find information about state energy programs and energy efficiency, and solar-specific information about community solar gardens.

Colorado General Assembly

Track pending solar legislation moving through Colorado’s state legislature; contact legislators; and stay current on renewables issues in Colorado.

Colorado Public Utilities Commission

The commission regulates electricity rates and services of the state’s public utilities.

Colorado Renewable Energy Society

Colorado Renewable Energy Society – Provides information about energy efficiency; offers renewable energy educational workshops and programs; and tracks legislative activities that impact renewable energy.

DSIRE Incentives Database – Colorado

Explore the public database to find solar financial incentives, rebates and loan programs specific to Colorado.

U.S. Energy Information Administration – Colorado

Provides statistics about Colorado’s energy use, as well as the state’s potential for solar and other renewables.