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Colorado Solar Incentives: Making Solar Affordable

In a state like Colorado, which enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine annually, it’s not surprising that solar energy is an idea whose time has come. Solar panels can reduce your electric bills at the same time that it limits your carbon footprint, saving you money while helping to save the planet. You’ll be doing your part to address climate change and air pollution while enjoying clean, renewable energy for less money than you’re currently paying.

The costs of installing a solar system continue to fall, and a number of Colorado solar incentives exist to lower those costs still further. Many homeowners who once may have found the initial investment too steep are now able to take advantage of the various grants, low-cost loans, rebates, leases, and other financial incentives that are increasingly available. Couple those savings with reduced monthly bills, and you’ll never find a better time to turn Colorado’s natural asset—its abundant sunshine—into your own personal renewable resource.

So how do you get in on the savings? There are several ways. Purchasing a system outright requires the highest initial outlay of cash, but it provides the highest dollar-amount returns on your investment. If you lack sufficient cash, you can pay via a solar loan or even a home equity line of credit, either of which allows you to come out ahead to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over a 15-year loan period.

A solar lease, or power-purchase agreement (PPA), works best for those with no equity or insufficient cash to purchase the system outright. The level of cost savings will be lower, but you can enter into the PPA without putting any money down—an attractive option that leaves you with no out-of-pocket costs and lets you immediately reduce your total electricity payment.

One point to consider is the long-term financial benefit of purchasing the system, an investment whose returns usually exceed those of mutual funds but lack the risk, since you’ll be relying on the sun coming up each day rather than on the perfidies of the financial markets. You’ll also receive a variety of credits and performance payments that would otherwise go to the leasing company, which go a long way to offsetting the cost of your initial investment.

Once your system is installed, there are more ways to save. A number of cities offer incentives and rebates of sales and use taxes connected with the system, and there are also grant programs covering residences that are part of an affordable housing program as well as low- and moderate-income housing owned by nonprofit organizations. There are also property tax exemptions in certain cases, as well as a state loan program and even federal tax credits.

Colorado is an especially solar-friendly state, meaning that the legislature and public utilities commissions have enacted rules that make solar energy more accessible to the public. It was the first state to pass a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), with the goal of achieving 30 percent renewable energy by 2020. The state also sets high targets for the utility companies, which means that they’ll be offering incentives for customers to switch to renewable energy sources so they can meet those targets. Now is the time to get in on those incentives, as they’ll likely disappear once the utilities have acquired enough customers.

Below is a list of resources for information about the many incentives and funding opportunities. These make going solar a practical and lucrative solution to the problems of high energy costs, climate change, carbon emissions, and air pollution.

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