Industry leaders, small businesses, and environmental groups petition to have 3 GW of solar capacity – the equivalent of a million residential rooftop installations – in Colorado by 2030. Doing so would preempt the equivalent of 3.6 million tons of CO2 emissions per year.
Solar, environmental, and small business leaders are campaigning for investment in solar across Colorado. They want to increase current solar capacity tenfold, to 3 GW, or what would be about 10% of the state’s energy consumption. The goal includes rooftop solar, commercial, and utility-scale installations, and would achieve the same annual CO2 emissions reductions as taking 760,000 cars off the road, according to Environment Colorado.
The Colorado Solar Energy Industry Association (COSEIA) announced this initiative earlier this year. As of last week, more than 280 businesses and industry groups – along with more than 11,000 citizens – have rallied support by endorsing a petition that reads:
“I’m proud of the progress Colorado has made on renewable energy, but we can—and must—do much more. By putting solar on homes, schools, and businesses, and providing solar power to utilities and other energy users, we would help reduce Colorado’s air pollution and create local jobs. To become a solar power leader, protect our environment, and create local jobs, Colorado should set a goal of installing the equivalent of a ‘million solar roofs’ by 2030. Not only is this goal achievable, but it’s also a critical component of creating a clean energy future and making Colorado a world-class solar state.”
Colorado boasts an average of 300 sunny days a year, with lots of potential for solar power. But oil and gas are big industries in the state too. Oil production in Colorado is at a 50-year high, thanks to cost-effective “fracking” techniques.
The Niobrara shale formation runs right through Colorado’s Front Range. Ironically, the shale play lies under the most solar-friendly and in some cases progressive communities in the state. Some cities have even passed ballot initiatives banning fracking. As a result, they were sued by democratic Governor John Hickenlooper’s administration and by lobby groups, which argue that fracking should continue.
Hickenlooper sings the praises of fossil fuels and renewables alike. Solar receives support through subsidies in Colorado, but those subsidies have not always been predictable. There are future uncertainties as well, perhaps most pressingly in the debate over net metering, likely to take place next year.
In spite of some of these potential challenges, the solar industry and other concerned groups refuse to let Colorado’s solar potential go unrealized. “The million solar roofs project paints the vision for where Colorado’s energy future is headed. This is the goal and therefore the challenge of our generation,” contends Namaste Solar partner and former COSEIA President Jason Wiener.