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New law raises the roof on solar

A bill signed into law in June atop a four-story parking garage in downtown Boulder will make Colorado a more attractive place for tech and other companies, state lawmakers said. The parking garage was not coincidental, said Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, a Democrat from Boulder.

Pointing to the solar panels, Fenberg explained that SB21-261 removes the former limit on total capacity of roof-top solar. The limit, now gone, was 120% of the power consumed by occupants of that building. More important, the bill authorized a new concept called virtual net-metering to customers of Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy. This will allow a company to do business in one location and own solar panels elsewhere.

This might be useful for somebody who has a lot of trees on their property and hence little solar on their roof. “But the most exciting is for commercial applications,” Fenberg said. “A Google or another tech company moving to Colorado will know this (law) is on the books so that it can build a solar array somewhere on the outskirts of town and use that energy where its employees and production is.”

“This really is a game changer,” said State Rep. Alex Valdez, a Democrat who represents downtown Denver and densely populated adjoining neighborhoods.

Being able to claim carbon-free energy has become increasingly important to major business. “It’s not just tech,” said Mike Kruger, executive director of Colorado Solar and Storage Association, an industry group. He cites aerospace giant Lockeed Martin, Walmart and Coors Molson, all of them corporations with significant presence in Colorado that also have renewable energy goals that would be difficult to ascertain without this new law.

“Yes, the techs took the time to educate the policy makers, but I think this is a market opportunity that can be relied upon by many, many Colorado businesses,” Kruger said.

The new law has other elements, including definition of something called a meter collar. If not very exciting to most people, this new technology could bring down the cost of installing solar at a typical home by a couple of thousand dollars, Fenberg said.

Moments before signing the bill, Gov. Jared Polis called it part of the “democratization of energy production.” State Sen. Kevin Priola, a Republican from Adams County who co-sponsored the bill, agreed with Polis. “Older laws need to adjust to what technology can do today,” he said.

Solar co-ops on the rise in Denver

The climate is changing, and so is the economic climate for going green. With the rise of solar coops, small businesses and residents in the area can get clean electricity while saving money on bills, too.

The nonprofit organization Solar United Neighbors (SUN) is working with the City and County of Denver to promote the second Denver Solar Co-op to help residents and small businesses within the City and County of Denver go solar.

Joining the free co-op does not obligate members to purchase solar. Instead, members will have the option to individually purchase a solar system, electric storage, or electric vehicle chargers based on the installer’s group rate. Co-op members will learn about solar energy and how leveraging a group purchase provides competitive pricing and quality solar installations.

With the great rates afforded by the co-op, individual residents and small businesses can save several thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the panels.

A business owner of the recent Mesa County Solar Co-op, Wendy Metzger, owns an aquaponic farm called Grand Valley Greens that produces greens and fish in a warehouse on her property. She confessed her utility bills to run the grow lights were “eating her alive.” Now with solar through the co-op, she expects to see a significantly reduced monthly utility bill and a much stronger bottom line. “It’s great having my roof print money, while I grow salad greens and fresh herbs for the local community inside,” she said.

Co-ops are on the rise in Colorado. Solar United Neighbors has facilitated six solar co-ops throughout Colorado since launching the program in 2019. This has helped nearly 200 families and businesses build 1.3 megawatts of solar capacity and invest $4.5 million into our local communities.

It’s no mistake that solar is so popular in Denver. With 300 sunny days per year, Denver is ranked tenth in the nation for solar power for both installed solar and solar capacity.

Going solar is a great way to get affordable, reliable electricity for decades. Right now is a particularly good time to go solar, as COVID-19 relief legislation recently passed by Congress extends the Investment Tax Credit for solar, so business owners can recoup 26 percent of what they spend on solar systems installed this year or next.

Last month, members of the Denver solar Co-op selected Photon Brothers to install solar panels for the group through a competitive bidding process. “We are thrilled to be chosen to serve the Denver SUN co-op,” said John E. Johnson at Photon Brothers. “With 2020 being so tumultuous, we expect a smoother 2021 where solar will shine on all who participate.

For more than eight years, our family — owned company has worked with homeowners and businesses in the area, providing quality solar installations at a competitive price. We are committed to putting the customer first and powering Colorado with clean renewable energy. Being headquartered in Denver Metro allows us to deepen our roots in the Front Range and beyond. We are excited about the future and working alongside Solar United Neighbors.”

Putting panels on your business is a great way to show your support for the community and the globe — and, save money at the same time.

Partners with the Denver Solar Co-op include the Denver Office of Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency, Alpine Bank, Colorado Renewable Energy Society, Vote Solar, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Colorado, New Energy Colorado, and the Northside Sustainability Alliance. 108 Denver residents and business owners have already joined the latest Denver co-op, with a goal of reaching 150 members by March 1st. Learn more at

Bryce Carter Website Photo 300x290 Bryce Carter is the Colorado Program Director for Solar United Neighbors. Email Bryce at [email protected] or call him at 720-295-3804.