Community Spotlight: Denver, CO
Solsmart Designation: GOLD
Denver received the Gold designation for removing obstacles to solar energy development, including creating an online permitting checklist, reviewing local zoning codes, allowing solar by-right accessory use, cross-training inspection and permitting staff on solar PV, and providing a streamlined permitting pathway for small PV systems.
Making solar accessible, affordable & prevalent
In November of 2012, Denver was named the first Solar Friendly Community, part of a national effort sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce the costs of installing solar power systems. One of the city's signature programs is the Denver Energy Challenge, which allows residents to easily invest in energy efficiency and solar by providing free energy advising and low-interest loans. Residential loans start at 2.75% and can cover the purchase or lease a rooftop solar system, upfront costs to purchase shares in a community solar garden, a solar thermal system, and more. See https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/environmental-health/environmental-quality/denver-energy-challenge.html.
In their own words
"Denver is situated in one of the most solar friendly climates in the country. Rooftop solar, community solar gardens, and utility scale solar should all be able to thrive in the city and across the state. Solar helps make energy more affordable and Denver has a long history of supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for low-income residents to reduce their energy cost burden. Clean, renewable energy like solar is also a critical way to address the air quality problems in the region, protecting residents health, environment and way of life. The hope is that 50% of all the energy used in the community will come from renewable sources by 2020. This is an ambitious goal and solar plays a critical role in getting Denver there.The SolSmart designation process was a true partnership between Community Planning and Development and Environmental Health, the two city agencies whose work most directly impacts solar in the community. Denver loved working with the SolSmart staff and technical assistance providers from the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Regulatory Assistance Project. These technical experts helped sharpen the thinking around solar policy and provided access to fantastic data about solar potential in Denver, as well as best practices on permitting and inspections for solar. This assistance will help expand access to solar in Denver and refine technical analysis on the impact solar can have on Denver's climate and energy goals.
Denver has worked with many solar industry partners to engage and inform the community about the solar opportunity, from rooftop solar to community solar gardens. In particular, Denver would like to give a shout out to GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that serves low-income communities by providing access to renewable energy through rooftop solar and community solar gardens. GRID Alternatives is also a leader in job training and professional development for women and minorities in the solar industry."