Colorado in the top 10 nationwide for per capita solar energy

Things are looking sunny for the state

Colorado ranked 10th nationwide for total solar power capacity per person last year, according to a new report by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center.

The report, Lighting the Way III: The top states that helped drive America’s solar energy boom in 2014, says that the state has outpaced sunnier locales like Florida because of policies that allow increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to “go solar.”

Compared with last year, however, the state dropped in its annual ranking of solar capacity.

“We have plenty of sunshine, but we need plenty of good clean energy policies to ensure that Colorado is lighting the way to a clean energy future with solar power,” says Katie Otterbeck, Solar power campaign organizer with Environment Colorado.

Of the top 10 states in the report – Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina — all have renewable energy requirements. Nine, including Colorado, have strong laws to allow solar customers to connect to the electricity grid and sell back their excess power.

“The incentive programs in Europe and North America worked,” Solar Mart Founder and President Mark Simmons says. “They forced such demand that manufacturing of solar panels increased fourfold. The factories went online in 2009. This allowed a drop in pricing, which was accelerated by the worldwide recession. In 2011, we reach a cost structure that makes a compelling economic case for solar, even without local incentives.” 

In the U.S., solar energy capacity has tripled in the last three years. The industry is adding jobs much faster than the overall economy, employing 4,200 people in Colorado last year.

While Colorado has several strong clean energy policies on the books, state and city leaders are poised to take support for clean energy up another notch. Now that the PUC has approved the continuation of the Net Metering program in Colorado, the state is positioned to maintain its place in the top 10.

"As Environment Colorado's report and the state's growing solar industry make clear, strong policies create tremendous market opportunities for advanced energy technologies like solar and wind,” JR Tolbert of Advanced Energy Economy says. “These technologies are key to moving Colorado and the country to a low-carbon economy, and decision makers will do well to reject efforts to weaken the state's clean energy programs moving forward."

Environment STATE Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentSTATEcenter.org

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