Denver has tripled its solar power since 2014

The solar panels installed on homes, businesses and government buildings have a combined capacity of 83 megawatts.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Denver has tripled its supply of solar power in four years, keeping pace with the most solar-heavy cities in the country, according to a new report.

The solar panels installed on homes, businesses and government buildings have a combined capacity of 83 megawatts, according to the Environment Colorado and Frontier Group report.

That could be enough to power (very roughly) 16,000 households, according to industry estimates for Colorado. And Denver has room on its rooftops to add hundreds more megawatts, the study found.

Los Angeles again stayed on top of the rankings with 349 megawatts. Las Vegas saw some of the fastest growth, sextupling its capacity since 2014 and nearly catching up to Denver.

Doing these rankings by city is a good way to show where growth is strongest. You can tell at a glance that conditions are ripe in the West’s sunny, open spaces. The numbers also reflect local policy. In Denver, the city government has made a point of researching strategies to move toward clean production.

In a new arrangement, Denver will work with the utility Xcel Energy on potential renewable projects, which could include investing together in solar plants or even batteries that better equip Denver’s grid to store renewable power for later use.

Denver on an autumn day. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver on an autumn day. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Still, it’s important to note that Denver’s operating in a much bigger system here. If the city does reach 100-percent renewable use, it will likely be reliant on larger renewable plants out on the plains.

“The electricity that (renewable sources) produce all goes onto a common grid, and we all use that electricity. It’s almost impossible to track an individual electron and figure out where it’s going,” said Erin Overturf, chief energy counsel for Western Resource Advocates.

The state of Colorado also has given some crucial boosts to the renewable industry, including its requirement that major utilities generate 30 percent of their power from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2020.

Renewable power now makes up about 20 percent of Colorado’s supply. The state overall is 10th in solar capacity, but wind is its largest renewable source.

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