The use of solar power is expanding rapidly across many American cities thanks in part to local policies supporting renewable energy.
According to a recent report by Environment America, the United States now has more than 53 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed, 26 times as much capacity as was installed at the end of 2010.
As of the end of 2017, 20 cities — representing just 0.1% of U.S. land area — accounted for over 4% of U.S. solar PV capacity. These 20 cities have over 2 GW of solar PV capacity — more solar power than the entire country had installed by the end of 2010.
Los Angeles leads the nation in total installed solar PV capacity among the 69 cities surveyed in the report. The following are the top 10 cities ranked by total installed solar PV capacity:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Jose
- San Antonio
- New York
- Las Vegas
According to the report, to move America toward an economy powered by 100% renewable energy, city, state and federal governments should adopt a series of pro-solar policies. Specifically, the report points out that local governments should, among other things:
- Implement solar access ordinances to protect residents’ right to generate solar energy on their own property.
- Make permitting, zoning and inspection processes easy, quick and affordable.
- Expand access to solar energy to apartment dwellers, low-income residents, small businesses, and nonprofits through low-interest financing programs, power purchase agreements (PPAs), collective purchasing programs, and community solar projects.
- Support and push for strong state-level solar policies, especially by combining efforts with other communities.
The Popularity of PPAs
In regards to the third point, PPAs have grown popularamong municipalities as a way to increase the amount of renewable energy used by residents and businesses. In February, for example, it was announced that under a PPA with Georgia Power, photovoltaic systems provider First Solar will begin developing and building the largest standalone PV solar plant in the southeastern United States. Once completed, the 200-MW plant is expected to generate more than 450 GWh of electricity each year.
The plant will be located on 2,000 acres in Twiggs County near Warner Robins, Georgia, about two hours southeast of Atlanta. First Solar says they plan to use more than 500,000 advanced technology thin film solar modules for the facility.
And in January, Wynn Las Vegasannounced it signed a PPA with renewable energy company Enel Green Power North America to buy energy from a 27-MW solar facility under construction in Nevada.
“The energy produced by the new facility will be used to meet up to 75% of Wynn Las Vegas’s current peak-power requirements, which is the largest percentage of renewable energy used by any resort in Las Vegas,” according to Enel Green Power North America (EGPNA).
The 3rd Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 15 – 17, 2018 in Denver. Learn more here.