The Lake County Solar Garden is SOLD OUT! As of December, 2015.

The Lake County Solar Road Map

Solar: How It Works

Photovoltaic (PV) panels collect sunlight and convert it to direct current (DC) electricity.  An inverter converts the electricity to alternating current (AC) electricity, which can be used in a building or sent to the grid.  Xcel Energy uses a net-metering system to credit you for solar power produced (if your system is up to two megawatts).  As your system produces power, it can be used immediately in the home.  If you produce more than you use, the electricity flows from the PV system into the grid (if you are grid-connected) and you are credited for the kWhs produced in excess of use. You can ‘bank’ kWhs for up to a year at a time.  It is possible to have an off-grid PV system as well, usually with storage capacity on-site. Xcel says:

“For example, if your system generates 300 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in a month and you use only 250 kilowatt-hours, the extra hours will be credited to you the following month. At the end of the year, if you have provided more energy to the grid than you have used from it, Xcel Energy will pay you. The credit will be based on the average incremental cost of energy for the previous 12 months, multiplied by the net number of kilowatt-hours your system produced.”

Solar Incentives

Xcel Energy is currently offering a production incentive for Xcel Energy customers producing photovoltaic solar power. This incentive changes frequently and can be best pin-pointed on the Xcel Energy web-site.

A Federal Tax Credit is available for 30% of the cost of installation for Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind, Fuel Cells, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Other Solar-Electric Technologies, Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels.

Local Solar Installers

Call today for a free site visit.  There is no solar installation company based in Lake County.  However, several high quality companies are located in nearby mountain towns.  If you want to get on this list give us a call.

Innovative Energy
1760 Airport Road
Breckenridge, CO 80424
(970) 453-5384

Active Energies, Inc.
102a Main Street
Minturn, CO 81645
(970) 306-4233

Colorado Solar Energy
19000 Mountain View Drive
Buena Vista, CO 81211
(719) 395-0191

Peak Solar
Salida, CO 81201
(719) 539-6918


Call an installer for a free site visit and quote.  But here’s the ballpark: $5-$7/installed watt for photovoltaic panels, before rebates and any other incentives.  Those that buy solar up-front are making an investment that will pay itself off in 5-15 years.  After that period, all incentives and energy produced are money in the bank.  Unlike your regular utility bill payment, purchasing solar is an investment with a financial payback. Solar leasing options are available.

Here’s an example:
Your electric bill is $50/month
You pay on average: $.10/kWh to Xcel Energy
You use: 500 kWh per month, 6000 kWh per year
In Lake County 4 kW will produce about 6000 kWh per year (assuming 1500 kWh/kW of production in Lake County annually)
You decide to off set 1/2 your usage.  So you buy 2 kW up front.
Out of Pocket Cost: $10,000
You receive a Federal tax credit of $3,000 at tax time.  You receive you net-metered energy production, saving you $25/month plus a Renewable Energy Credit from Xcel Energy of $.13/kWh or $32.50 per month.  This savings of $57.50 per month, means you will pay off the $7,000 investment in a little over ten years.

Why Is Solar So Great?

1. Do it for the environment.  Every kWh used in Xcel Energy territory produces 1.6 pounds of carbon into the earth’s atmosphere.  By offsetting your own electricity usage, you can reduce, on average, 11,905 pounds of carbon annually.

2. Payback.  Unlike your monthly payment to Xcel Energy, which has no payback.  An investment in solar will eventually make you money.  For every dollar paid to Xcel Energy  $.85 leaves the community.

3. Independence.  Producing your own power means you are less dependent on rising costs of power, and global fluctuations in energy markets.  In the last 10 years, residential energy prices have increased by an average of 5% annually.  Protect yourself.

About Renewable Energy in Lake County

Renewable energy resources are naturally replenishing in a relatively short period of time, such as solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, biomass, and hydropower.  While it is worth exploring all of these renewable energy options for different scenarios, solar energy is the most common choice for energy production because of its strong production potential, ability to tie into the grid, and take advantage of incentives from Xcel Energy.

How much energy will your solar photovoltaic system produce? You can use the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s fun online tool PV Watts to calculate solar potential.


We get a lot of questions about wind potential.  Wind power generation is very site specific or micro-climate dependent.  MOST locations in Lake County are classified as class 1 or 2, which is poor or marginal. While the wind may be very powerful in Lake County, it is often not consistent enough to warrant a better production potential.  Exceptions may include: ridges and mountain tops.  While solar often has a higher production potential at high altitude, the thin air has a negative effect on wind production.


Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between solar thermal and solar PV? Typically, solar photovoltaic panels, or PV panels, are used to displace electricity used for lighting and appliances. Solar thermal can be used to displace natural gas use in many forms. Solar thermal, while it has received less attention in the past several years, has great potential in Colorado. Colorado is ranked as the #1 state for solar thermal potential in the U.S., due to the perfect combination of warm sunny days and cool nights.  You can do both, of course. Solar PV and solar thermal panels can share space on roof-tops.

Why the emphasis on distributed generation?  Distributed generation (DG) consists of small-scale electric generators typically located at or near where customers use electricity. Small-scale rooftop or ground-mounted solar photovoltaics (PV) installations are examples. Other technologies such as combined heat and power, distributed wind power, and diesel powered generators also are typically considered to be DG. As of the
writing of this report, Colorado has a total of approximately 45 MW of installed PV. By comparison, Colorado had less than 1 MW of installed PV in 2005. An 8.3 MW PV plant installed near Alamosa provides power to PSCo. Several other 1 MW and larger PV projects are installed in Colorado and many more are planned. Should the costs of PV and DG continue to decline and supportive policies substantially expand, DG in Colorado has the potential for exponential growth.

With distributed generation projects in Lake County, including rooftop solar and solar gardens, power is produced and used locally, which increases energy independence, local jobs, and reduces the necessity and cost of energy transmission.

Our mission is to inspire stewardship of our natural resources by creating educational opportunities and lasting community infrastructure in Leadville and Lake County, Colorado.