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Colorado at the "Bulls Eye" for Solar Thermal Power

Colorado’s solar energy industry has released an ambitious roadmap to boost solar thermal power development across the state.  Its release Tuesday comes ahead of President Obama’s planned visit to Aurora later this week where he’ll speak about the West’s new energy economy.

A recent National Renewable Energy Lab study concluded that solar-thermal technology performs better here than in any other state, thanks in part to our erratic temperature swings and abundant sun.  To that end, the new Colorado Solar Thermal Roadmap outlines a number of strategies its backers intend to implement to bring the technology into the mainstream. 

Neal Lurie of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association says, first, the state must create a level playing field.

"There’s a goal across a large portion of the state to be able to have Colorado achieve 30% renewable energy by the year 2020," Lurie says. "Currently, solar thermal technology isn’t even allowed to count towards that."

Learie and others unveiled their blueprint at a west Denver public housing complex that’s already seeing some savings in its utility bills thanks to a solar-thermal heating and cooling system. 

Currently about 600 people work in the industry in Colorado.  The blueprint aims to create 15,000 jobs by 2030.

Laurent Meillon employs five people at his Castle Rock-based company Capitol Solar Energy

He says there are a number of market barriers that his industry must overcome, the biggest of which is public awareness.

"We get calls daily with people who say, 'oh, I’d like a solar system,' and I say, 'well what kind of solar system,' and they say 'you mean there’s more than one," Meillon says. "They don’t even know that solar exists."

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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