How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Solar Power in Colorado
Colorado boasts one of the most robust incentive platforms for residents that want to install solar panels on their homes, with a wide array of programs aimed at encouraging the adoption of renewable energy in area households. Like many states, the Centennial State authorizes rebates like net metering, that allows solar homeowners to credit excess energy generation against their usage, and offers some of the best returns for participating residents.
However, other incentives, such as property and sales tax rebates are left to local governments to regulate, meaning that if you want to purchase a solar system for your Colorado home, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the programs offered by your specific local government and utility provider. Below is what you need to know to begin your journey toward solar power in your home.
Colorado Solar Productivity
While outsiders tend to see Colorado as a land of alpine mountains and snow-topped ski resorts, if you live here you know that the climate varies vastly depending on the part of the state you’re in. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who ranked all US states according to their solar radiation productivity, found that Colorado comes in fifth in the nation for solar energy. It’s this difference in climate that accounts for the high score. The sun-drenched deserts and plains of the state’s southeastern corridor are sure to see higher solar activity–and better solar energy generation levels–than cloudier mountainous regions.
Solar Popularity in Colorado
Colorado maintains very respectable numbers for solar installations–with an estimated 540 megawatts of installed capacity, according to industry statistics, the state ranks ninth in the nation for solar generation, with enough energy to power around 103,000 homes. Boulder alone issued almost 600 permits for new projects in 2014 and 2015, which has been giving legislators in the area reason to pause and consider how best to support the growth of this burgeoning industry while making sure residents are protected.
Colorado Average Residential Electricity Use and Cost
Coloradans are used to looking beyond the grid for their energy–space heating and gas-fueled appliances account for a high percentage of heating and cooling in the area. That puts electricity use in the state slightly lower than the US average. Of course, that’s only one way to look at energy consumption. In terms of total Btus used, Coloradans tower over the country’s average, using about 15 percent more than the rest of the nation.
It’s well documented, however, that residents of Colorado pay well below national levels for electricity, with utility spending coming in about 23 percent below the country’s average. That means residents here can take advantage of low system and installation costs–as providers are forced to offer low rates that compete with utility spending.
Installing Solar in Colorado
Coloradans are fortunate to be sitting in a location with some of the lowest installation costs nationally for PV systems. A study performed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory showed that panels installed here averaged out to a mere $4.10 per watt. By comparison, panels in Wisconsin, the most expensive state, worked out to about $5.90 a watt.
Colorado State Solar Support
Colorado is an example of solar at work. Many renewable regulations and green power goals exist for the state that set the tone for city governments and individual residents. For instance, the state requires that large utilities provide the residents they serve the option of purchasing power generated using renewable technology, using what’s known as renewable energy credits, or RECs, and has enforced a green building initiative that mandates energy-efficiency standards for new government buildings.
The state government here has also passed legislation authorizing local municipalities to provide property tax exemptions and rebates as a way to encourage local governments to sponsor and support homeowners making the switch to solar, since solar equipment is locally assessed in Colorado. Additionally, they’ve created incentives for solar gardens, and established the Green Colorado Credit Reserve, which helps mitigate losses for financial institutions offering loans to install solar systems.
The directive coming down from state agencies shows clear support for solar power, but with a clause that designates authority to local municipalities for final implementation. That means that you’ll want to review your area’s offerings carefully before budgeting for your solar installation, as incentives may differ widely depending on the area you live in.
State Solar Incentives
The state government of Colorado offers a variety of options to homeowners converting to solar power. It’s important to note that the state has charged local city and county governments with the responsibility of implementing and managing these programs, so program specifics vary from region to region.
- Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Equipment: New solar systems purchased and installed in Colorado are eligible for a sales tax exemption, an easement worth several hundred dollars. Solar water heating and solar thermal equipment is also eligible; however, according to the current legislation, that exemption expires on July 1, 2017.
- Property Tax Exemption: Solar panels and systems that generate less than 2 megawatts of energy are assessed at the local level, and the state authorizes these agencies to exempt this equipment as personal property. That allows residents in participating regions to benefit from the increased property values associated with solar installations without paying for it.
- Net Metering: Like many states, Colorado has implemented a net-metering program that credits participating residents for any extra energy that they generate, as long as a system’s capacity is no larger than 120 percent of the resident’s average use. Credits can be rolled over indefinitely, or paid out at the utility’s average hourly cost. That makes this program exceptionally resident-friendly; many states require payment at a wholesale cost, rather than retail rates.
Like all US residents, newly solar households in Colorado are eligible for the national Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This reimburses qualifying homeowners for 30 percent of their system costs, as long as that system’s capacity will generate at least half of the home’s energy. To see if you qualify, complete form form 5965 along with your income taxes.
Colorado Local Solar Incentives
Many local governments and utilities have taken the reigns from the state government and passed legislation creating rebates for residents investing in solar. Some have even set up their own unique programs and loan options that allow their residents special advantages over the rest of the state.
- Sales Tax Rebate – City of Boulder: Boulder residents can take advantage of an incentive that returns them 35 percent of the sales tax for a solar module, which generally results in about a $140 value. The program’s official details are listed at this site.
- Elevations Energy Loans – City and County of Denver: Meanwhile, residents in Denver have the option of applying for a low-interest loan for the purchase of solar equipment financed by Elevations Credit Union. Minimum residential loan amount is $500. More details about that program are available here.
- Utility Rebate Programs – Various: Utilities throughout the state offer rebates for grid-tied customers generating solar energy. Program details vary depending upon the specific provider; however some offer heavy incentives–Holy Cross Energy’s rebate program, for instance, could potentially return solar-powered residents $8,100 for a 15 kW system. Check with your local utility to see what options may be available in your area.