Despite Colorado’s fame as a skiing destination, Denver actually ranks 30th of 174 major U.S. cities in terms of sunshine potential, not far behind Honolulu and Miami. In fact, Colorado has the third highest installed solar PV generation capacity of any U.S. state (source: IREC US Solar Market Trends 2009). As a result of innovative policies and greater awareness of environmental issues, Colorado was an early adopter of solar energy systems. As of the end of 2009, the state had 59 megawatts of installed solar PV capacity, third highest among U.S. states despite the fact that the state ranks 22nd in terms of population. In addition, Colorado installed 53.6 megawatts of solar power in 2010, ranking Colorado fourth in the nation, which was double the output for 2009 (23.4 megawatts).
Home to natural gas, oil and some of our nation’s best solar rebates, Colorado plays an important role in the United States’ energy industry. Colorado was the first state to create a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), through a 2004 ballot initiative. Originally, the RPS mandated that all utilities with more than 40,000 customers provide at least 10% of their electricity from a renewable energy source. Through additional improvements, it is now mandated that by 2020 investor-owned utilities must provide 30% and cooperatives and municipal utilities with over 40,000 must provide 10% of their retail load from renewable energy sources. Investor-owned utilities also have a distributed generation requirement, which is good news for solar owners. By 2020, 3% of the retail load must come from customer solar electric systems, rather than huge solar farms. This means that investor-owned utilities will continue to offer fantastic solar incentives to consumers to increase the number of residential and commercial solar systems!