Steps For Going Solar
Determining Solar Incentives and Financing
A variety of solar incentives can help you finance your solar installation. Read about the incentives below, and visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) to learn more.
- The Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit gives homeowners a 26% and 22% tax credit based on the total cost of their solar installation for systems installed in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Based on federal policies as for summer 2020, residential solar energy systems will not qualify for a federal tax credit from 2022 onward. However, solar customers are encouraged to stay tuned to federal changes.
- Similarly, the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit provides a 26% and 22% tax credit to businesses that install specific types of renewable energy, including solar, for systems installed in 2020 and 2021, respectively. However, this tax credit rate will reduce to 10% from 2022 onward. Learn more about the Federal Tax Credits from the above-mentioned DSIRE database and Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).
- As of summer 2020, the State of Colorado provides property, sales and use tax exemptions for components used in renewable energy generation.
- Routt County participates in the State of Colorado’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, which enables owners of eligible commercial and industrial buildings to finance up to 100% of energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation eligible improvements. Financing is provided by private capital providers at competitive rates with repayment terms up to 25 years.
- The Colorado RENU Loan is a statewide residential loan program sponsored by the Colorado Energy Office in partnership with Elevations Credit Union. RENU makes home energy upgrades easy and affordable by offering low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements.
Learn more about solar financing from EnergySage Solar Financing.
Finding and Choosing an Installer
Steamboat Springs is home to two experienced solar installation companies, and the area is served by additional providers, which can be located through such resources as EnergySage.com.
Local solar installers will help you to identify the solar system that is right for you, based on your home or business size, siting, budget and past energy usage.
Visit the Solar Reviews and EnergySage Marketplace websites to compare reviews and prices of some solar installation companies and solar panel brands. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has developed best business practices for solar installers and customers that can be found here.
More information on solar in Colorado can also be found through the Colorado Solar & Storage Association (COSSA) website.
- System Size: The size of your solar system will be based in part on how much energy you consume. Use your energy bills from the past year and the National Renewable Energy Lab’s PVWatts Calculator to find how many kilowatt (kW) of capacity and how many panels your solar system will need. The Colorado State Extension service also offers a useful Solar Electric Calculator.
- Solar Access and Easement: Colorado's solar access laws, which date back to 1979, prohibit any residential covenants that restrict solar access. In 2008, H.B. 1270 extended the law to protect installations of wind turbines that meet the state's interconnection standards and certain energy efficiency measures including awnings, shutters, and other shade structures; garage fans; energy-efficient outdoor lighting; retractable clotheslines; and evaporative coolers. Some exceptions are made to allow for aesthetic requirements that do not significantly increase the cost of the device or decrease its performance. H.B. 1270 further protects owners of solar or wind energy systems by awarding reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party in any court case involving the significant increase in the system's cost based on aesthetic requirements. For more information, check out the HOA Solar Action guide prepared by Solar United Neighbors.
Colorado also allows property owners to agree voluntarily to solar and wind easements with their neighbors for the purpose of protecting and maintaining proper access to sunlight and wind. The statute provides details about the process for filing an easement and includes provisions regarding the reversion of easements. More information can be found on the DSIRE site.
Applying for a Permit
In order to ensure that residential solar installations are safe for families and their neighbors, installations must meet certain zoning and building codes. Your installer will typically guide you through the permitting process or submit your permit applications for you. Access the Routt County Building Department online process for permitting submission and approval here.
As stated in Routt County’s Building Application/Permitting/Plan Review Process summary, permits for solar PV systems may be issued the same day as the application, with a few exceptions. Routt County strives to permit all building applications in 10 days or less.
Permitting fees for residential and commercial solar PV installations in Routt County are capped at no more than $500 and $1,000, respectively, based on Colorado HB1199. In October 2019, the City of Steamboat approved Ordinance No. 2723, which waives the $130 City General Permit Fee for solar installations and exempts solar projects from city excise tax.
The Routt County Building Department – which provides service for all communities and areas within the county – has created a simple outline of the local solar permitting process.
Solar system inspections by the Routt County Building Department ensure that solar installations are safe and work properly. Your installer will likely schedule the inspections with the combined City/County Building Department as well as the interconnection and meter exchange process with the local utility, which for the City of Steamboat Springs is the Yampa Valley Electric Association. Typical building department inspections for installation of solar panels include the following:
- Structural Inspections: All ground or rooftop solar installations will require building inspections including footing, piers and final installation in accordance with approved plans for installation.
- Rough Electrical Inspection: Inspection of wiring associated with solar installations. This includes underground or any wire intended for concealment. Inspection to occur prior to connection to building/utility and prior to concealment.
- Final Electrical Inspection: Inspection of completed solar installation. All equipment shall be installed and in operating condition.