New Report: Los Angeles #2 in State for Solar Roofs

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City urged to expand solar market further to create local jobs, clean air

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Environment California Research & Policy Center released a new report today cataloging the amount of solar power installed by cities across the state, as of the third quarter of 2011. The report identifies the hubs of the state’s thriving solar economy (detailed in the table below) and shows that Los Angeles ranks second in the state in terms of the number of solar installations on residential, commercial and government buildings, with just over 4,000 projects installed. Los Angles is also second in the state in terms of the total amount of solar electricity generated, measured in capacity, with 36 megawatts.

“The good news is Los Angeles is closing in on San Diego’s lead as America’s #1 solar city,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California Research & Policy Center and co-author of the report, California’s Solar Cities 2012: Leaders in the Race Toward a Clean Energy Future. “If city leaders embrace visionary solar policies today, the city can lead not only the state, but the nation towards a clean energy future, while bringing local jobs and clean air.”

In the past two years, Los Angeles has nearly tripled the amount of rooftop solar installations. From 1999 through 2009, Los Angeles installed just over 1,000 solar rooftop systems, totaling over 13 MW. While Los Angeles is a leader in terms of total installed projects, it has yet to achieve the level of solar penetration seen in some of the other top 10 cities. Whereas Santa Rosa and Clovis each have roughly 10 solar installations for every 1,000 residents, Los Angeles has only 1 solar installation per 1,000 residents, illustrating ample opportunities for further expansion of the city’s solar market.

Joining Environment California Research & Policy Center for the report release were local business leaders, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials, and clean energy and green jobs advocates who have provided local leadership in growing the city’s solar market. 

“I commend Environment California on their California Solar Cities 2012 report, which demonstrates that new solar installations will create a significant number of new jobs, new investment and valuable clean power for California,” said Mary Leslie, president of the LA Business Council. “Important work like this makes Environment California a valuable supporter of LABC’s CLEAN LA Solar program, which would create a solar feed-in tariff (FiT) that would quickly generate new jobs and allow property owners to be paid for the power they generate. LABC is proud to work with Environment California to help capture the tremendous solar potential of our region.”

The report finds that investing in solar is not only a sound economic decision for California’s cities, but brings direct environmental benefits.  Every megawatt of solar power installed in the Los Angeles area prevents the emission of nearly 700 pounds of smog-forming pollution per year. A recent report by the Solar Energy Industry Association shows that California is home to over 3,500 solar companies that employ more than 25,000 people and that the market is poised for further growth in 2012.

Governor Jerry Brown has called for a significant expansion of California’s rooftop solar market by putting out a vision of installing 12 gigawatts (a gigawatt is 1000 megawatts, or twelve times California’s current solar rooftop market) by 2020. Among the growing list of elected officials statewide who have endorsed Governor Brown’s clean energy vision are numerous LA area leaders, including members of Congress Howard Berman, Judy Chu, Janice Hahn and Henry Waxman, State Senator Fran Pavley, State Assembly members Steven Bradford, Betsy Butler, Ricardo Lara and Warren Furutani, LA City Councilmembers Tony Cardenas, Eric Garcetti, Paul Krekorian and Jan Perry, LA City Controller Wendy Greuel, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Culver City Mayor Michael O’Leary.

“Increasing accessibility to solar power means more green jobs and a cleaner environment for our communities,” said LA City Councilmember Eric Garcetti.  “Los Angeles is helping California lead the way on this important emerging industry.”

The release was hosted by the Los Angeles Unified School District at Richard E. Byrd Middle School in Sun Valley, which recently had a 362 kW solar system on a parking lot shade structure, which will save the District more than $1.6 million over the span of the 20 years and $60,000 in the first year.
“The Los Angeles Unified School District is committed to energy conservation and an increased use of renewable energy,” LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez said. “Solar power is not only good for the environment, but one of the emerging worldwide industries.  This school and others like it will be among the most powerful tools we as a society have to teach our generation and generations to come about how to be careful stewards of our planet.”

Environment California recommends that, at a minimum, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power meet its goal under the state’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative (SB1) to install 280 MW of rooftop solar through customer incentive programs by the end of 2016, and fulfill its commitment to administer a 150 MW solar Feed-in Tariff Program by 2016, to drive a market for solar on warehouses, parking lots, and multifamily housing units. Such measures will enable Los Angeles to take full advantage of its rooftop solar potential, create good career jobs, and stimulate economic investment in our communities.