New law raises the roof on solar

A new bill signed into law will make Colorado a more attractive place for tech and other companies

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.

Categories: Economy/Politics, Industry Trends, Magazine Articles