Colorado’s Udall seeks solar farm legislation |

Colorado’s Udall seeks solar farm legislation

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., announced Wednesday his intention to introduce legislation that would provide tax credits for Colorado residents who pay in to a community “solar farm” project.

The Solar Uniting Neighborhoods Act, or SUN Act of 2010, is designed to update the tax code to keep up with clean energy innovations, Udall said, and specifically focuses on solar farm projects.

“Solar farms allow people who don’t want to, or can’t afford to, install [photovoltaic solar panel systems] on their house to do so on separate land in partnership with local utilities,” Udall said.

Udall met with Glenwood Springs-based Holy Cross Energy and Clean Energy Collective in Carbondale in February as part of his Workforce Tour of Colorado, which helped shape the SUN Act. Holy Cross, in collaboration with Clean Energy Collective, developed a project model that would allow homeowners or renters to purchase a fractional ownership in a solar farm at a lower cost of installing their own system.

According to Paul Spencer of Clean Energy Collective, people could buy in for as little as $500, whereas installation of a full PV system could run $10,000 or more. The project would also provide solar benefits to homeowners whose residence do not have a favorable location for a solar power system.

“These projects have the potential to drastically increase the adoption of clean energy nationwide,” Udall said. “But the tax code has not kept up.”

For example, Udall said that, currently, homeowners who install a PV solar system on their home can receive a tax credit for up to 30 percent of the installation cost. However, the tax code does not include homeowners who invest in a solar farm project.

“My bill would extend the tax credit to community solar projects,” he said.

Experts predict that the bill could increase solar use by 67 percent in a five-year period.

“In Colorado, that is a lot of jobs in the clean energy economy we want to bring to the forefront,” Udall said.

According to Steve Casey with Holy Cross Energy, the collaboration between Holy Cross and Clean Energy Collective, and with Udall’s proposed legislation, presents the opportunity for the energy co-op to “exponentially increase the region’s capacity for renewable energy generation.”

“One of the vital benefits we see from this model is a community system fully integrated with the utility and, more importantly, one that is perpetually operated and maintained,” Casey said.

Casey added that the solar farm model in conjunction with Sen. Udall’s efforts to update the tax code provides a unique vehicle for Holy Cross customers to benefit from renewable energy generation.

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