State incentive programs drove the Colorado PV market to more than double in 2010, resulting in the installation of 53.6 megawatts of capacity.
The state market maintained a relatively even split, with 18.7 megawatts of installed capacity from residential, 15.9 megawatts from non-residential, and 19.1 megawatts from utility. Installations in the residential sector were mainly driven by the allowance of third-party-owned systems and incentives from the Governor’s Energy Office rebate program. In the utility sector, SunPower’s 19-megawatt Greater Sandhill project was completed in Alamosa County, becoming the largest solar energy project in the state.
The next few years will see additional large-scale utility projects coming online in the state. SunPower’s San Luis Valley Solar Ranch, a 30-megawatt photovoltaic installation, and Cogentrix’s Alamosa Solar, a 30-megawatt concentrating PV project, are both currently under construction and expected to come online in 2012.
Though Colorado had the third highest cumulative installed capacity at the end of 2010, the outlook for solar installations in the state is uncertain. Xcel Energy, which is responsible for over 75 percent of PV installations in Colorado, announced in February that it was making substantial changes to its “Solar* Rewards” customer-sited PV incentive program. The utility plans to cut rebate levels from $2.00 per watt to $0.25 per watt for systems under 100 kilowatts.
Until the PUC issues approval for these new rates, rebates will be frozen, and this poses a substantial risk to Colorado’s residential and small commercial market through 2011.