Solar-industry study touts economic impact

DENVER – The state’s solar industry has contributed an estimated $1.42 billion in tax revenue and earnings to the economy in the past five years, according to a report from The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.

The solar industry – specifically, the photovoltaic solar panel industry – has created about 10,700 new full-time jobs in the state in the past five years, and those employees earned more than $534 million, according to the report.

The “Assessment of the Economic, Revenue and Societal Impacts of Colorado’s Solar Industry” report was commissioned by the Solar Friendly Communities program in Denver. Solar Friendly Communities is led by the Denver-based nonprofit trade group Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, or COSEIA. Boulder County government officials are working with COSEIA on the project.

State and local tax revenue generated from photovoltaic panel development in Colorado is estimated to be from $34.1 million to $59.7 million in the past five years, according to the report. The estimates include property, sales and income taxes.

Policymakers and regulators are likely to take more notice of the state’s solar industry, now that the report has quantified its economic impact, said Jason Wiener, a worker at Boulder-based Namaste Solar and a member of the board of directors at COSEIA, in a press statement.

“We have only scratched the surface, as solar PV is still such a small percentage of the overall electricity generation portfolio,” Weiner said. “We need all stakeholders to collaborate to remove barriers to the responsible deployment of solar and to develop appropriate market signals to protect and increase investment in this clean-energy technology.”

The Solar Friendly Communities program is funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, a solar energy program that made 22 grants to programs across the nation as part of a national “Rooftop Solar Challenge” in 2011. The challenge is to increase the number of buildings with solar panels on them over a specific period of time. While the Denver program grant amount was not immediately available, the U.S. Department of Energy had $27 million available for such programs in the United States in 2011, according to information on its website.

The Solar Friendly Communities program also includes government officials in Denver, Fort Collins and Golden, the Rocky Mountain Institute and the American Solar Energy Society.

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