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Despite Setbacks, Solar Continues To Shine in Colorado

Grace Hood

Colorado’s solar industry appears stable and even growing, shaking off recent slowdowns and obstacles, including the high-profile failure of Abound Solar in 2012.

The greatest demand at the momentseems to be for community solar gardens, which basically allow consumers who don’t have the ability to install solar panels to purchase electricity from a nearby solar array.

Carbondale-based Clean Energy Collective is building a number of them. They currently have seven projects in the works along the Front Range, and about 40 developments nationwide.

"Clean Energy Collective is definitely a bright spot in the solar industry in Colorado – especially on the Front Range, where we’ve had past failures in our solar industry, including Abound Solar," says BizWest Media reporter Steve Lynn.

Incentives for consumer solar systems – such as Xcel Energy’s Solar* Rewards or net metering programs -- have dropped in recent months. Some feared that decline would hurt Colorado’s industry, although other executives sayit's being offset by a drop in installation costs.

Meanwhile, utilities like Xcel in Colorado are commissioning more community solar projects to help meet a state mandate that 30 percent of all electricity must come from renewable sources by 2020 [.pdf]. The requirement for rural electric utilities is 20 percent.

And as more states pass renewable energy mandates, Lynn says solar companies are likely to reap the benefits.

"Companies like Clean Energy Collective, Namaste Solar… these kind of companies that are involved directly in either marketing solar arrays, or building them – or both," Lynn says.

Earlier this month, Louisville-based Real Goods Solar announced a deal to build a 1-megawatt solar array in New York City.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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