A new report out from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) finds that the U.S. could install 5,000 megawatts—the equivalent of about 5 to 10 large power plants—on municipal property across the country. What’s more, the report contends it can be accomplished with little to no up-front cash.
The organization’s report the Public Rooftop Revolution Report says it is the first time such a study was undertaken and it intends to show the value of municipal solar across the country. The study looks at the roughly 200 cities in the U.S. with populations over 100,000.Solar is becoming more popular for homes and businesses, largely because of the availability of less expensive solar panels and more financing options but in many places municipalities don’t have the same access to solar power financing options because of certain rules and regulations or the lack thereof. One of the biggest impediments is that municipalities can’t receive the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that has made it less expensive for homes, business and utilities to add solar power.
“Cities have unused building roofs that are perfectly positioned to capture solar energy,” explains John Farrell, director of Democratic Energy at ILSR. “We knew there was an opportunity, but were surprised by how much money cities could save, how much potential solar could be installed, and how solar on municipal rooftops has spillover effects making solar easier for residents and businesses.”
The report is being released in increments and the first piece was released today (June 1). The first part of the report explains how Lancaster, Calif.; Denver; New Bedford, Mass.; Raleigh, N.C. and Kansas City, Mo. have added solar to municipal buildings through leasing and other options and how some of the cities are saving a lot of money doing it.
“Cities like Raleigh, N.C., and Kansas City, Mo., have made remarkable strides given the uphill fight against restrictive state policies,” says Farrell, “Whereas New Bedford, Mass., has more solar per capita on public buildings because of two key state policies: aggregate net metering allows the city to group buildings together to offset electricity use and virtual net metering lets the city produce solar energy off-site for municipal use. Rules matter.”
The report found that New Bedford, for instance, is saving $6 million to $7 million on its annual electric costs because of the 16 megawatts of solar power it has on its municipal buildings. That’s 2.5 percent of the city’s budget that’s being saved or used for other purposes now.Tweet