Colorado’s Sunny Climate Can Mean Energy Savings for Broomfield
Dec 27, 2018 10:21AM
By Kristen Beckman
Colorado boasts more than 300 sunny days per year, making it a great place to live for those who enjoy plentiful Vitamin D year-round. The state’s abundance of sun also makes it an attractive place to install solar energy systems, an opportunity many homeowners consider in an effort to reduce energy costs and make a positive impact on the environment.
Colorado ranks 12thin the nation for installed solar capacity with more than 209,700 homes powered by solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. While only about 3 percent of the state’s electricity is solar, more than $2.5 billion has been invested in solar throughout the state and prices for installations have fallen nearly 50 percent during the past five years.
There are two primary types of solar power systems used in residential applications, according to SEIA. Photovoltaic devices generate electricity directly from sunlight when photons strike and ionize semiconductor material on a solar panel. PV modules, typically installed on rooftops, do not contain moving parts and generally last 30 years or more with minimal maintenance. Solar heating and cooling technologies collect thermal energy from the sun and use this heat to provide hot water and space heating.
Solar is an ideal energy source because it is essentially infinite, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and available everywhere. Harnessing solar energy allows homeowners and businesses to save money by reducing or eliminating the amount of power they draw from the electrical power grid, and solar power can sometimes earn homeowners money when surplus solar power is transferred back to the grid in exchange for credits – a process called net metering.
There are potential drawbacks to solar power. Upfront installation and equipment costs can be steep. The average price of a 5 kW solar installation in Broomfield is about $16,000, and payback is just under 10 years, according to EnergySage a startup company that offers solar comparison shopping data based on actual quotes. In addition, solar power depends on sunny days, meaning clouds and weather can create inconsistency.
To encourage the use of renewable energy, the federal government and local municipalities offer tax credits and other incentives for solar installations. The most substantial incentive is the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, which provides a credit of 30 percent of the cost of a qualified system. However, that incentive is scheduled to be discontinued at the end of 2019.
If you are considering a solar installation, there are several factors you should consider and questions you should ask before proceeding.
Is your roof up to par? It is important to evaluate how much roof space you have available for panels and which direction your roof faces. In addition, solar panels can last several decades, so it is important that your roof is in good condition and doesn’t need to be replaced in the near future.
How will you pay for the system? Homeowners have several options to finance the upfront cost of solar installation, including purchasing the system outright or obtaining a loan. Systems also can be leased from a third-party provider or through a power purchase agreement. Be careful to understand how using a third-party arrangement affects any ongoing maintenance costs or incentives that may be available. In addition, if you sell your home before a solar lease or third-party contract is up, your buyer may have to be approved to assume your contract.
How long do you plan to live in your home? With a significant upfront cost to installing solar systems, it is important to consider how long it will take to break even on your investment and whether you intend to be in your home long enough to reap that benefit. “This is a long-term investment, so don’t expect to get your whole cash back in the first year,” said Matthias Alleckna, an energy analyst at EnergyRates.ca, an energy price comparison website. “Solar-powered systems can run up to 30 years while their average money-back time is around six or eight years. They are expensive for their initial costs but highly money-saving in the long term.”
Who will install your system? SEIA estimates there are more than 150 solar installers in Colorado. Look for an installer that has professional solar installation certifications, solar-specific business licenses, and insurance. Make sure the installer has experience with solar installations, check online ratings, and ask for referrals.
What happens after your system is installed? Make sure you review the system warranty and understand what your responsibilities are for maintaining the system and repairing damage. Check with your insurance provider to ensure any damage caused by hail or other factors is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy.
Municipal Solar Efforts
The City and County of Broomfield has deployed solar on several of its buildings in an effort to use renewable energy and reduce long-term energy costs. The city buys the electricity generated from the solar providers that installed the panels and has agreements that guarantee no future cost increases over the term of the agreement. Installations are on the Police and Combined Courts Facility, the Norman Smith Service Center, the Paul Derda Recreation Center, the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Library, the City & County Building, the Great Western Reservoir Reuse Water Treatment Plant, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Police Training and Detention Center, and the Willow Run Sewer Lift Station.