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Simplifying Solar for Westminster Residents

Simplifying Solar for Westminster Residents


 

This past year, the City worked to make solar development and installation more efficient and cost-effective for City residents. Notably, two solar related initiatives were completed in 2021–a solar Co-op and a community designation process called SolSmart. 

Solar Co-op:

The Sustainability Office and Solar United Neighbors (SUN), a national solar nonprofit, completed a very successful Westminster Solar Co-op. The co-op was the first in the City and the eighth solar co-op offered by SUN in Colorado over the last two years. Initially, 88 Westminster residents expressed interest in learning more about installing solar on their homes. Of that number, 24 signed contracts with the selected solar installer, Photon Brothers. Based on previous solar co-ops, this is a high response rate. The total kilowatt capacity of the installed systems is 168.3 kilowatts, which is roughly equivalent to the power generated by the solar panels on top of City Park Recreation Center, West View Recreation Center and the Public Safety Center. The total private dollars spent on the installations was $477,000 and will result in a 25-year energy savings of $743,000 for the homeowners. In addition, homeowners also saw a 13.3 percent savings from participating in the co-op compared to an average price for solar installation. Westminster had the highest number of both installed solar power systems and energy generated of any of the co-ops that were offered in Colorado in 2021. This shows a high demand for solar energy among city homeowners. From the time the co-op closed, additional residents have expressed interest, so the City expects to offer another one this year.

 

SolSmart:

The City of Westminster received Gold Designation from SolSmart, a national organization that accredits governmental agencies for their solar-friendly policies and practices. The City even earned a Special Recognition Award in SolSmart’s Inspection category. To achieve Gold Designation, Westminster eliminated barriers and encouraged social, infrastructure, and market conditions for solar development. Examples of completed actions include:

  • Passage of a “Solar By Right” ordinance which explicitly permits solar development as a right in all zones and areas.
  • Streamlined permitting and inspection processes that ensure solar permits receive a three-day maximum turn-around and can be submitted online.
  • Improved Community Development and Sustainability webpages to be one-stop-shops for solar information and resources.

This Gold Designation positions Westminster as a leader in solar readiness and friendliness and builds upon our community’s participation in Colorado’s Solar Friendly Communities program where we were the first city in Colorado to achieve Platinum-level Certification.

In total, the City’s participation in SUN and SolSmart aims to reduce the soft costs of solar and improve solar market conditions by making it faster, easier, and more affordable for our residents and businesses to install solar energy systems. The City looks forward to exploring further solar initiatives in 2022 and beyond. If you’re curious about the benefits of solar development, want to apply for a permit, or curious about financial incentives and other resources, drop by our new solar landing page.For inquiries related to the SUN Solar Co-Op and/or SolSmart, contact Paul Schmiechen, Chief Sustainability Officer at pschmiec@cityofwestminster.us.

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