Colorado Governor Jared Polis is set to sign seven new clean-energy focused bills into law tomorrow (May 30, 2019), with HB-1003, the Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act, being the key piece of legislation. HB-1003 removes arbitrary restrictions on the size and location of community solar gardens, expanding community solar access to rural counties and improving the economies of scale for constructing a community solar garden. Colorado was the first state in the nation to enact community solar legislation in 2011.
The popularity of community solar – as evidenced by long waitlists for capacity in existing gardens; by 20 other states adopting community solar legislation; by the increasing pool of bidders to win community solar capacity in Colorado; by more than 500 megawatts of applications in Minnesota, where community solar capacity is uncapped – has even forced Xcel Energy, the largest utility in Colorado and Minnesota, to be the nation’s first major utility to adopt a policy to be 100% carbon-free by 2050.
Community solar impact
Colorado has set its energy goals sky high – 100% renewable energy by 2040 – and community solar is the one approach that broadens access to solar energy while preserving customer choice. Approximately 75% of Colorado homes are not suitable for rooftop solar, and that percentage shrinks when assessed for low- to moderate-income households, which makes this new legislation a real victory for underserved populations who cannot or don’t want to put solar panels on their roofs, or make an upfront investment to produce their own clean energy.