New report: rooftop solar is on the rise in Colorado

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CO ranks 11th nationally in rooftop solar generation growth, new $1 million grant program can help cities cut permitting delays for solar customers  

DENVER – Colorado got 2.6 times more energy from small-scale solar in 2022 than it did 5 years prior according to Rooftop Solar on the Rise, a new report released today by the Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. The state ranked 11th nationally in growth of rooftop solar generation over the past five years. Despite the rapid recent growth, Colorado is only scratching the surface of its solar potential according to the report.

“With 300 days of sunshine in our state each year, every roof without solar panels is a wasted opportunity,” said Alex Simon, Public Health Advocate with CoPIRG Foundation. 

The report identifies four crucial policies that can determine how successful a state is at tapping its rooftop solar potential: solar incentives, supportive rate design, interconnection policies and permitting processes. At the release advocates called on local governments to pursue a new, $1 million first-come, first-serve state grant program that would help them adopt proven technologies that cut solar permit wait times and reduce barriers to rooftop solar. 

“Today, in Colorado you can get your energy straight from your roof,” said Henry Stiles, Advocate with Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center. “Why pay for power from a distant plant spewing pollution when we can just soak up the sun on our rooftops?”

Rooftop solar reduces dependence on fossil fuels, eases strain on the grid during periods of high electricity demand, increases resilience to threats like extreme weather, and limits the amount of land needed for clean energy, all at a steadily falling cost.

Particularly in the last five years, rooftop solar has taken off in Colorado. Residential solar in the state grew 217% from 2017 through 2022. Over the same time period small-scale commercial solar grew 62% and the state has begun to generate significant power from industrial solar roofs. In total, small-scale solar in Colorado generated 1,372 GWh of electricity in 2022. 

Despite gains over the last decade, rooftop solar is still a largely untapped resource. The report finds that Colorado has tapped less than one percent of its rooftop solar generation potential. 

Lack of consistency and simplicity in permitting is a barrier to the growth of rooftop solar. Recently, new technologies have created online automated permitting platforms, which verify the compliance of solar systems and instantly issue permits, freeing up staff time to focus on more complex projects. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently developed an online solar permitting platform called SolarAPP+, which is able to reduce the time required to review and grant a permit to about 15 minutes for many solar installations.  

In 2022, the City of Denver was one of 12 cities selected to pilot SolarAPP+ as an option for the 3,738 solar applications received that year. Approximately 70% of those applications were eligible to use SolarAPP+ to obtain a quick permit – saving city staff approximately 1,240 hours of total review time according to Denver’s Community Planning and Development. On average, the review times for these projects dropped from up to 30 days to nearly instantly with SolarAPP+. 

The Colorado Energy Office is offering $1 million in grant funding for local and tribal governments across Colorado to adopt automated permit processing technology like SolarAPP+. Reimbursable costs include staff time or training, IT or consultant time, training of installers, and maintenance or subscription costs for up to three years. The office will open applications for this Automated Permit Processing for Solar (APPS) Grant on April 2nd; for information about the APPS grant program or to sign up for the mailing list, visit the Colorado Department of Energy Solar APPS webpage.

“Nobody wants their project slowed down – not the customer and not the crew. In Denver, any minor change to the project used to require re-submitting the permit and restarting the whole review process,” said Mike Wagner, Permit Coordinator with Denver-based solar installer Photon Brothers. “With SolarAPP+, we are able to make some changes and get a new permit within 30 minutes.” 


Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit 

CoPIRG is the Colorado Public Interest Research Group. CoPIRG is an advocate for the public interest. We speak out for a healthier, safer world in which we’re freer to pursue our own individual well-being and the common good. More at


Media contacts: 

  • Alex Simon, Public Health Advocate, CoPIRG, 203-536-1819, [email protected] 
  • Johanna Neumann, Senior Director of the Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America Research & Policy Center, 413-367-4794, [email protected]
  • Jon Maunder, Media Relations Specialist, (203) 837-7630, [email protected]