The Growth of Solar in Colorado

There’s a lot of talk about solar right now. The current US government is pushing in the right direction by offering incentives to businesses that decide to take up and install solar energy, and more and more people are becoming aware of the urgent need to switch to cleaner energy solutions.

Across the whole of the US, an incredible 149.5 gigawatts of solar power is currently being generated. This comes from over 4 million existing solar energy systems and is responsible for generating 263,883 jobs in the sector.

But what role does Colorado play in these impressive stats? 

Our state is fortunate enough to receive over 300 days of sunshine per year, making it a prime candidate for solar energy. Let’s find out if Colorado has acted upon this opportunity and what exciting solar projects it has embarked upon.

In a Nutshell

  • Colorado is currently ranked 13th for total installed solar capacity in the US
  • In 2023, the number of solar installations equated to 2,671 MW
  • 6.45% of the state’s electricity comes from solar
  • The value of Colorao’s solar market is currently $5.6 billion
  • 3,778 MW is projected to be installed over the next five years

How Is Colorado Progressing in the Solar Sphere?

In comparison to the rest of the United States, Colorado’s progression in solar energy is not too shabby. In Q1, 2023, the state was ranked 13th out of 52 states for total installed solar capacity. This is a massive improvement from 2022 when it only ranked 25th. 

Here are the current breakdown percentages of where Colorado sources its electricity:

  • 37.6% from coal
  • 26.7% from natural gas
  • 28.6% from wind
  • 4.2% from solar
  • 2.9% from hydroelectric
  • 0.3% from biomass

As we can see, the state is doing well where renewables are concerned, with wind power generation leading the way. Right now, 6% (or, more accurately, 6.45%) of its electricity is produced from solar installations.

Overall, solar energy was responsible for 2,671 MW of output in Q1, 2023. This is an increase of 166 MW since 2022. Furthermore, the state is projected to increase this output by 3,778 MW over the next five years.

The value of the state’s solar market stands at $5.6 billion, with $456 million invested in 2022, and produces enough power for over half a million homes.

It is also responsible for creating 7,626 jobs in the sector. Right now, we have 388 solar-based companies operating in Colorado, with 186 of them (including 8760 Solar!) developing and installing solar arrays.

All of this is extremely impressive, but what does Colorado have to do to reach the top spot for solar energy in the United States? Well, California is the current front-runner, so let’s see how the two states stack up against each other:

Ranked in the US1st13th
Total solar installed40,977 MW2,671 MW
Percentaqe of power generated from solar26.57%6.45%
5-year solar growth projection22,260 MW3,778 MW
Value of solar market$90.6 billion$5.6 billion
Number of homes powered11 million+500,000+
Number of jobs created78,1167,626

California is proving to be somewhat of a goliath in solar energy for a couple of reasons. First, it has the most expensive energy prices out of all 52 states. 

Second, because so much power is generated from solar, this leads to an abundance of energy during daylight hours and a shortfall at night. This has led to a huge increase in the demand for battery storage, which, in turn, is driving growth and demand for solar.

Although it will take some hard work to match California in terms of what it produces, we should not let that put us off. On the contrary, we should use the state as inspiration that a shift toward clean energy is possible and may not take as long as we think.

Notable Colorado Solar Projects

Some really interesting and exciting solar projects have been developed in Colorado. Some are still underway, but many are already operational. 

We are also pleased to report that several of these projects are spearheaded by major energy companies that are finally starting to shift away from dirty energy sources.

Here are some of the notable projects that we’ve been following:

BigHorn Solar: Pueblo

Image credit: lightsourcebp.com

No article mentioning large solar projects in Colorado would be complete without talking about BigHorn. Situated in the Pueblo municipality, this massive 300 MW installation was built on 1,800 acres of land and is currently the largest solar installation in Colorado.

Developed by Lightsource BP, the installation opened and became operational in December 2021. The electricity it generates from its 750,000 ground-mounted panels is purchased by Xcel and is used to power the EVRAZ North America Rocky Mountain steel mill.

This setup provides a low-cost energy solution that allows the steel mill to remain operational while supporting more than 1,000 steel mill jobs within the community. Additionally, the solar installation itself also provides over 300 jobs to local people.

Comanche Solar: Pueblo

Image credit: communityenergyinc.com

Operational since 2016, the Comanche solar project is also situated in Pueblo and occupies around 900 acres of land. 

The installation generates 156 MW from 502,056 ground-mounted solar panels, and the electricity is purchased by the Public Service Company of Colorado – a subsidiary of Xcel Energy.

Originally developed by Community Energy and SunEdison, the installation is currently owned by Novatus Energy.

Sun Mountain: Pueblo

Image credit: lightsourcebp.com

Colorado’s second-largest solar installation comes courtesy of another Lightsource BP and Xcel collaboration. 

Sun Mountain consists of 636,990 solar panels spread across 1,700 acres of land and cost half a billion dollars to construct. The output of this facility is a whopping 293 MW. 

The facility entered commercial operation in December 2022, with Xcel purchasing the energy it produces. Currently, the facility generates enough electricity to power over 53,000 homes and has created hundreds of clean energy jobs within the state.

Jack’s Solar Garden: Longmont

Image credit: jackssolargarden.com

Jack’s Solar Garden is tiny in comparison to some of the mega projects noted in this article. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. This 1.2 MW solar project is a shining example of agrivoltaics and how solar energy and farming can coexist on the same plot of land.

The facility consists of 3,276 panels raised high enough off the ground so that crops can be grown underneath. The panels provide enough energy to power over 300 homes in the local community while providing much-needed shade to allow 15 varieties of crops to thrive underneath.

Joack’s Solar Garden is a great example of how farms and agricultural businesses can leverage their existing land to maximize its potential. 

Imagine if you could generate enough power to keep your farm operational while still cultivating profitable crops on the same piece of land. This is how advantageous agrivoltaics can be.

Garnet Mesa: Delta

Image credit: garnetmesasolar.com

Garnet Mesa is a really interesting project currently in development over in Delta. 

Developed by Guzman Energy, Citra Power, and Delta-Montrose Electric Association, the 80 MW solar farm will sit on 383 acres of a former ranch and provide enough energy for 18,000 homes. But what makes this project exciting is that the plot of land will also provide grazing land for approximately 1,000 sheep! 

The solar modules will be mounted on low-profile horizontal, single-axis trackers, allowing enough space for the animals to wander underneath and graze. This provides two benefits; firstly, the land receives dual usage in the form of agrivoltaics. Secondly, since the land will be grazed, it maintains itself, removing the requirement to mow or cut the vegetation down manually.

Right now, the project has received approval and is in the design and pre-construction phase. It’s unclear exactly when the project will become operational.

Solar Incentives for Colorado Businesses

Colorado is invested in a greener, cleaner future and, as such, has provided several incentives for switching to solar energy. This is in addition to several huge incentives provided by the US government. Here’s an overview of them.

US-wide incentives:

  • USDA REAP grant:  Can provide a grant for up to 50% of the cost of a solar power installation, capped at $1 million;
  • Federal Solar Tax Credit: 30% investment tax credit calculated as a percentage of the cost of the installed solar system.  

Colorado incentives:

  • Colorado Enterprise Zone Program: Up to 6% tax credit for solar installations within 16 predetermined zones; 
  • Colorado Opportunity Zone Program: Investors investing capital gains or profits into designated low-income communities can get a deferment on paying taxes on the original capital gain until 2026;
  • C-PACE: Attractive financing for businesses that want to invest in clean energy solutions.

Ready to Go Solar?

We’re extremely proud of Colorado and its recent advancements in the solar energy space. To gain the 13th spot out of all 52 states is no small feat. And while it will take some serious effort to beat California, we don’t think it will be difficult to reach the top ten in the next couple of years – especially if farms like yours make the jump over to solar.

At 8760, we specialize in helping farms, ranches, and agricultural business maximize their potential through solar energy. Our experienced team can thoroughly analyze your business to allow you to understand precisely how solar energy can work for you and how you can gain a full return on investment.

To get started, text “READY” to 719 470-0254 or get in touch via email: sales@8760solar.com. Our professional yet friendly team is on hand to answer all your questions and talk to you about your solar needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Worth Going Solar in Colorado?

Yes, it’s definitely worth going solar in Colorado. Thanks to the 300+ days of sunshine received by the state, your solar panels will receive plenty of light in order to generate a good amount of power.

Does Colorado Have a State Tax Credit for Solar?

There is a tax credit of up to 6% for businesses that install solar within 16 predetermined enterprise zones. Additionally, Colorado businesses can also benefit from the nationwide 30% investment tax credit.

What Is the Average Cost for a Solar System in Colorado?

The cost of a solar installation varies greatly and is dependent on the size and type of what you have installed. In order to find out how much you will pay for a solar installation on your land, we invite you to get in touch with 8760 Solar for a quote.

What Percentage of Colorado Is Solar Energy?

As of Q1, 2023, approximately 6.45% of Colorado’s electricity was generated from solar energy.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last in Colorado?

Solar panels in Colorado have excellent longevity. The average lifespan of a solar panel is 25 – 30 years. However, quality panels can last over 40 years if they are properly looked after and maintained.

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