Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the Solar Power in Your Community guidebook, which will assist local government officials and stakeholders in boosting solar deployment and overcoming common barriers in today’s market. The report provides best practices, case studies, and links to additional resources. The intent is to provide local governments and their stakeholders a one-stop-shop for information about solar deployment.
This marks the third edition of the guidebook, which DOE originally published in 2011. Since that time, technology cost decreases and federal incentives have spurred dramatic increases in solar deployment. In addition, hundreds of communities have successfully created a solar market with the help of technical assistance from SolSmart, DOE’s national designation program. While many lessons have been learned, there are still barriers to reaching the solar deployment needed to decarbonize the electricity system by 2035.
“We need to deploy solar at three to four times the current rate to address climate change,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Empowering local governments to expand clean energy access for their families and businesses will ensure cleaner air, better health outcomes, and more resilient communities.”
The new Solar Power in Your Community guidebook highlights the most current technologies and strategies to maximize the benefits of solar to all communities, such as increasing equity in solar deployment, integrating solar into resilience planning, and creating workforce training programs. Because DOE recognizes that there is no single path to solar market development, a range of policy and program options are provided that can be tailored to a specific community to address their needs and market barriers.
The guidebook highlights case studies from a wide range of communities that have successfully implemented solar programs, including:
- Bronzeville Microgrid Project – Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) built a solar microgrid in this Chicago South Side community that provides backup power to 10 critical facilities. The solar installations were built on public housing, composed of 16 high-rise buildings.
- The Solarize Philly campaign – Led by the Philadelphia Energy Authority, Solarize Philly developed a new group buy structure that enables low and moderate-income residents to participate.
- GreenPower Training Program – In 2016, Madison, WI, started a new program to train underemployed and unemployed residents from underrepresented communities in basic solar installation. Participants have gone on to gain electrical apprenticeships and become certified journeymen, and some have been hired by the city.
- Santa Rita Union School District’s Solar-Plus-Storage Systems – The Santa Rita Union School District in California installed solar-plus-storage systems on each school building to provide power in the event of disasters and grid outages. Each system can provide up to seven hours of power at each building, minimizing disruptions to the school day and lowering electricity costs.
- Edina’s Community Solar Garden – This Minnesota community hosts a 618-kW community solar garden on the roof of the Edina Public Works Building, serving 68 households.
- Santa Fe County Housing Authority Solar – This New Mexico housing authority developed a program to increase access to solar for local multi-family affordable housing residents at a time when community solar was not authorized in the state. Individual solar systems were provided to individual apartments, financed though energy performance contracting at no cost to tenants.
- Floating Solar in Sayreville – Lacking available land, this community in New Jersey used a floating photovoltaic system to offset 100% of its water treatment facility electricity use.
The guidebook also emphasizes strategies for improving access to solar energy at the local level, especially for households that may not be able to afford the upfront cost of PV systems, do not own their homes, or do not qualify for solar financing. Local governments are uniquely positioned to remove many of the barriers to widespread solar adoption and make solar energy more affordable and accessible for more residents and businesses.
Solar expansion at the local level will help to reach President Biden’s goal of an equitable transition to a decarbonized electricity system by 2035 and decarbonized energy sector by 2050. Achieving this goal will support the nationwide effort to meet the threat of climate change and ensure that all Americans benefit from the transition to a clean energy economy.