Colorado Springs Council Approves Solar Subsidies

April 10, 2013

Colorado Springs City Council yesterday voted to expand its Community Solar Garden program, a subsidy for solar energy that allows consumers to invest in solar panels without installing them on their own rooftops. KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports.

Developers of community solar gardens erect panels in sunny locations and sell or lease them to consumers who then get a credit on their electric bill. Councilwoman Jan Martin says she agrees with solar advocates who told council the program puts the city on the map as a capital of innovation.

"I do believe that If Colorado springs wants to attract and keep young professionals we have to start showing that we hear them and we want to become a community for them."

But Colorado Springs Utilities has to pay more for a watt of solar energy compared to the cost of coal-based electricity. CSU estimates that the expansion of the pilot program will cost its ratepayers about $22 million over 20 years. While the subsidy boosts the average household’s electric bill just 24 cents a month, large industrial customers say it's a burden for them. Local semiconductor maker Atmel figures the program adds $75,000 to its annual expenses.