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Colorado programs look to cut solar installation red tape

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It is all but impossible to forget about the sun. It warms us, changes our weather, determines our schedule, blinds us, and even helps us pick our outfits for the day. Is it any surprise, then, that solar-power is at the top of the list when it comes to the most popular alternative energies? Even those who do not currently have solar energy capabilities are quick to recognize the power of the sun.

The Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association recently won one of 22 regional Rooftop Solar Challenge grants from the Department of Energy. The goal of the grant program is to reduce the cost of solar energy so it is a viable competitor in the energy market. In addition to the cost of solar panels and the price of professional installation, the permitting and inspection process can add an additional $2,000 to the cost of a rooftop solar panel system - which can be upwards of %40 of the total cost.

In Boulder, the Solar Friendly Communities launched in order to help potential solar customers cut through the red tape to make the installation process easier for local governments and customers alike.

Currently, many solar installation companies advertise a no-money down plan which has monthly payments so small they basically reflect the cost of a typical monthly energy bill. This cost is ideally cut further by the rebates and subsidies from energy companies for the installation or for the unused energy that is sold back into the system. However, last year Colorado's Xcel energy cut back on their rebates programs, claiming the price of a solar panel installation had dropped to the point where the average consumer could afford it on their own.

Critics of Xcel's decision say that without the rebate programs, customers have no incentive to switch to solar power.

Eventually the cost of extracting petroleum and natural gas from the earth will no longer be worthwhile and alternative energies will take their place. The question is: how many more hydrocarbons will be released into our atmosphere before that happens?


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