Colorado Shows Growth in Residential, Commercial Solar Installations

SMPA Community Solar Farm installed by Sunsense Solar.

Colorado added 67 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity, bringing its total to 398 MW in 2014. That’s enough clean, affordable energy to power more than 76,000 homes, according to the recently-released U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review. The report went on to point out that Colorado’s biggest solar gains came in residential installations, but commercial installations increased, as well.

Of the new capacity added, 42 MW were residential and 25 MW were commercial. Together, these installations represented a $212 million investment across Colorado.

From an environmental perspective, solar also helped to offset nearly 450,000 metric tons of harmful carbon emissions last year in Colorado – the equivalent of removing more than 90,000 cars off the state’s roads and highways, or not burning nearly 500,000 gallons of gasoline.

To put the state’s solar growth in some context, the 398 MW of solar PV installed today in Colorado is nearly as much as the entire country had installed by 2006. And frankly, the state is just scratching the surface of its enormous potential.
– Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

Today, there are 380 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in Colorado, employing more than 4,000 people.  Notable solar projects in Colorado include:

  • Alamosa Solar Generating Project was completed in 2012 by developer Cogentrix. This concentrating photovoltaic (PV) project has the capacity to generate 30 MW of electricity – enough to power more than 5,400 Colorado homes.
  • Another utility scale project, the Hooper Solar Project, is currently under construction in Colorado and is scheduled 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 1,120 kilowatt (kW) 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 percent – and down a total of 49 percent since 2010. Nationwide, the U.S. residential market added 1.2 GW of installed capacity in 2014, marking the first time that this growing sector surpassed 1 GW 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 percent annual growth.

“Today, the U.S. solar industry employs 174,000 Americans nationwide – more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined – and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy,” Resch added. “This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the U.S. and Colorado economies, as well as for our environment.”

Photo credit: SMPA Community Solar Farm installed by Sunsense Solar.

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