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Denver named new program's first official "Solar Friendly Community"


Denver is the first municipality to be recognized by Solar Friendly Communities, which launched in February of this year. Interested municipalities can apply for recognition at solarcommunities.org, the program's site, which outlines a series of best practices. Each of its categories comes with "solar points" related to a wide range of areas, including educational components, licensing processes and online postings of requirements.

Here's a graphic from the program that outlines a road map to the Solar Friendly designation.

Solar Friendly Communities.jpg
solarcommunities.org
Twelve best practices for the Solar Friendly Communities recognition.
Denver scored 1,275 points out of 1,600 possible points, giving the city a "gold level" recognition. The city also has an installed capacity of 9.4 megawatts in its buildings, which includes three prominent solar photovoltaic arrays at Denver International Airport.

The kinds of changes that Solar Friendly Communities looks to incentivize relate to what are known as the "soft costs," such as permitting, installations and regulatory costs, which generally account for up to 40 percent of a rooftop solar system's price. These costs have remained consistent as ones related to the hardware like solar panels have generally dropped in recent years, the organization says. If cities can help with those other areas of cost, then, it'll help the industry be more successful on the whole.

In the long term, this kind of award program could incentivize governments across the country, similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certifications, which encourage green designs through a scoring system, the group says.

Cantwell says her program is currently working with around a dozen municipalities in Colorado and hopes to expand beyond going forward.

"This is a tangible way we can work with our own communities and encourage leaders to take these actions," she says.

Solar costume, City and County Building.jpeg
Sam Levin
A mascot at the press conference yesterday.
At the press conference yesterday, Hancock, standing next to a woman dressed as a giant sun, said this award allows the city to send a clear message.

"We are open for business when it comes to solar," he said, adding that it is good for job growth to support alternative energy. "We are putting people to work and that makes sense to me."

More from our Environment archive: "Drunk cycling: Is Denver's new bike DUI policy harsher than rules in other states?"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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