On June 27, Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D), along with representatives from Environment Colorado, Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) and solar installers were on hand at an active solar installation near Denver to unveil a new report, A Million Solar Roofs for Colorado, commissioned by Environment Colorado showing why and how Colorado can add in 1 million solar rooftops by 2030.
The campaign follows the Million Solar Rooftops campaign in California, which was announced by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). “We have the capacity,” said Jeanne Bassett, senior associate of Environment Colorado. “Given that there are other states that have moved forward with this, and have made headway, it's time for us to do the same,” she said.
“Many people don't realize that we currently have less solar power than new Jersey,” Bassett said. “Here we are a state that has nearly 300 days of sunshine a year. The fact is that we're only getting less than 1 percent of our power from solar. It’s time for a change. That is why we're calling on a million solar roofs by 2030. We're asking Governor Hickenlooper (D) to take the lead on this so we can actually be the solar leader that we should be, given the potential that we have here in Colorado,” she said.
“If you looked at all the available rooftops, you're talking about 16 gigawatts. A million solar roofs would just give us 3 gigawatts …there's huge potential in the state,” Bassett asserted. To get there, she said, Colorado will have to update its solar policies and continue effective policies like net-metering.
House Speaker Ferrandino discussed the opportunity solar offers and why more distributed solar is needed. “We know that Colorado has such amazing resources in wind or solar as we see today. We need to harness those resources to create homegrown energy and to create jobs all across Colorado,” he said.
“We see the thousands of jobs the solar industry has created in Colorado. We need to continue that,” Ferrandino said. “We need to continue to work to make sure that solar energy and all renewable energy is the future for Colorado … We as leaders who are trying to create jobs in our communities think this is the right idea to make these key investments.”
“What we're talking about here is increasing Colorado's solar about 10 times from where we are today—in 17 years we can do this,” said John Bringenberg, a COSEIA board member and President of SunTalk Solar. He said that a million solar roofs would provide about 10 percent of Colorado’s power. “The only way to get solar on a million roofs in Colorado is by having thousands of skilled people throughout the state working for hundreds of Colorado-based solar companies.”
COSEIA launched the initiative in February, according to Senior Program Director Rebecca Cantwell. “Already we have nearly 240 endorsers of this vision,” she said. Among them are farmers, breweries, business leaders and officials. “What we're really focused on now is getting leaders, businesses, elected officials, and citizens to [endorse this]. We're hoping that that kind of grassroots support will really generate the support to make more happen,” she explained.
The report itself, produced by the Frontier Group for Environment Colorado, made a series of recommendations to reach the million solar rooftop goal. Among them were strengthening the state’s renewable energy standard, requiring utilities to source 50 percent of their energy from renewables by 2030 (Colorado’s current RES requires 30 percent by 2020). It called for extending renewable energy tax exemptions, strengthening net-metering policies and supporting more community solar and long-term contracts for solar with fixed rates. It also called for standardizing procedures and permitting across the state, and creating a net-zero energy building code for the state.