Getting Started with Solar
Welcome to Summit County’s solar resource webpage. Summit County has achieved SolSmart's highest designation, Gold, for being a solar-friendly local government.
Local governments have tremendous influence over the prospects for solar energy growth. Unnecessary paperwork, red tape, and other burdensome requirements increase costs and discourage solar companies from moving to the area. By streamlining these requirements and taking other steps to encourage solar development, communities become “open for solar business.” And since the solar industry is a leading source of American job creation, attracting solar investment in your community is a great way to promote economic development and new jobs.
SolSmart uses objective criteria to designate communities that have successfully met these goals. Summit County received a designation of SolSmart Bronze in 2020, and then received a Gold designation in 2021, joining more than 380 cities, counties and regional organizations in 41 states and the District of Columbia, representing over 90 million people.
The Summit County community has lofty climate action goals, and solar energy will play a critical role in meeting them. Significant amounts of solar PV are being installed around the county due to our abundant Colorado sunshine, low fees, streamlined permitting process and bulk buying programs like Solarize Summit. Summit County has a goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity by 2035.
Thanks to SolSmart for helping Summit County become a local leader in solar energy installation. For more information about the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and questions to ask solar professionals, read the Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power and visit the Department of Energy’s Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.
Our Solar Commitment, Policies and Processes
The Summit County Building Inspection, Planning, and Sustainability Department's are committed to exceptional customer services as it relates to solar processes. To promote the continued advancement of solar in our community we are committed to the following:
- Providing clear guidelines about the solar permitting and inspection process in our solar checklist.
- Using a solar specific permit application.
- Processing small rooftop solar PV permits applications over-the-counter.
- Offering online scheduling and appointment times for solar projects.
- The Land Use and Development Code contains clear standards and regulations for solar energy systems.
Solar energy uses a renewable energy source – the sun – and provides many benefits for individuals and the community. It improves environmental quality by reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, supports local solar companies in Colorado, saves money on energy costs as the price continues to drop from technological developments, and improves electric grid resilience during peak demand and other stresses to the system.
Solar Maps and Potential
Investigate your property’s solar potential by clicking here. You can also estimate the performance of potential PV projects using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts Calculator.
Finding a Contractor and Going Solar
Find a solar contractor (or two) to assess your home for solar energy and provide a quote.
- Certified practitioners can be found through NABCEP.
- Visit EnergySage to learn about solar energy and submit for solar quotes from a network of pre-screened, local solar installers.
- Consumer Solar Checklist – a checklist for residential consumers considering solar energy from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Clean Energy Consumer Bill of Rights – ensure a positive consumer experience by addressing important issues from IREC, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
- Solar Customer Resource Portal – various resources from SEIA, the Solar Energy Industries Association.
- Local installers: Active Energies Solar & Innovative Energy
Financing, Incentives and Tax Exemptions
Typically solar installations are paid for through loans or cash, with Federal and State incentives available.
- A Homeowner’s Guide to Solar Financing – learn about different financing options from CESA, the Clean Energy States Alliance.
- Xcel Energy Net Metering – So you want to install solar panels to produce your own clean energy? Great, Xcel can help. When you use Net Energy Metering and produce more solar energy than you need, the extra energy is added to the grid. Any excess is held in your solar bank for you to use in future months.
- Solarize Summit – During the summer, Summit County offers residents and businesses an opportunity for significant discounts on solar panel installation. Participants in Solarize Summit can leverage bulk-purchasing power and rebates to take advantage of exclusive discounts. Discounts increase as the number of participants increases and limited rebates of $1,500 per system are offered.
- GRID Alternatives Colorado – Installs rooftop, community, and multifamily solar electric systems for income qualified households and affordable housing providers throughout the state, providing families with needed savings and training Colorado workers for jobs in the growing solar industry.
Solar Rights and Procedures
In 1979, Colorado passed its solar access laws, which prevent any residential covenants that restrict solar access. Other Colorado solar rights include access to easements and limits on local fees.
Local Solar Metrics and Projects
Summit County installed photovoltaic energy systems on several County facilities in 2010. These systems offset County energy costs by using renewable energy from sunlight to produce electricity. Find out how much electricity each of our photovoltaic systems is generating, how much we're saving on energy costs and how much we're lowering our CO2 emissions in real time.
In 2019 and 2020, Solarize Summit installed over 100 residential solar systems in Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon, and Unincorporated Summit County. The program continues in 2021, approaching 3 megawatts of rooftop, residential solar installed through the annual Solarize Summit program.