The road to 100% renewable energy: April update

Imagine a world powered by clean, renewable energy. Environment America’s advocates, organizers and members are sharing this vision with college campuses, cities and states across the country. Here's a roundup of stories from the past month:

Tim O'Connor | TPIN
Environment America Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy Senior Director Johanna Neumann (center) is joined by Peter Humphrey, president and CEO of North Atlantic Corp. (right) and Alex Keally, vice president of Solect Energy (left), for the release of the "Solar on Warehouses" report.

Rooftop solar on America’s warehouses could power every household in every state’s largest city

Covering the roofs of America’s warehouses and distribution centers with solar panels could generate enough clean electricity to power every household in every state’s largest city, according to “Solar on Warehouses,” a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group.

“What the world needs now is rooftop solar, which produces inexpensive clean energy, averts harmful pollution and preserves open space,” said Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s clean energy program and managing director of Frontier Group. “If we want to create a clean energy future, we should look first to the already-built environment that could host the tools we need. Warehouse rooftops provide a perfect opportunity — they’re big, they’re flat, and they’re begging to be put to this crucial use.”

The United States has more than 450,000 warehouses and distribution centers, with many more under construction. Cumulatively, America’s warehouses have almost 16.4 billion square feet of rooftop space — about twice the area of Memphis, Tennessee, one of the 30 largest U.S. cities. Putting solar on all these warehouse roofs could generate 185.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar electricity each year, enough to power almost 19.4 million households and reduce global warming pollution equivalent to more than 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

MD LCV | Used by permission

Maryland passes the POWER Act to expand offshore wind

On April 10, the last day of the state’s regular legislative session, Maryland lawmakers passed the POWER Act, which sets a state goal of getting 8.5 gigawatts of power from offshore wind by 2031. The bill also includes language to facilitate the construction of the transmission lines needed to bring that much power onshore.

“Going big on offshore wind will save ratepayers money and reduce pollution that harms our health and our climate,” said Emily Scarr, state director of Maryland PIRG.

Maryland has approved four offshore wind projects that are scheduled to create a combined power capacity of more than 2 gigawatts by 2026, enough to power 600,000 average Maryland homes.

Gov. Wes Moore signed the bill into law on Earth Day.

Steven King | TPIN
A solar canopy installation in Los Angeles.

Senate transportation committee passes bill to add more solar power in California

On April 11, the California Senate Transportation Committee, by a bipartisan 16 to 0 vote, passed legislation to encourage installing solar panels over parking lots and along highways in the Golden State. SB 49, authored by state Sen. Josh Becker, is sponsored by Environment California.

The bill takes a two-pronged approach to boosting California’s solar capacity. First, it would spur more solar over parking lots via a sales tax exemption for the materials to build solar canopies. Second, it would have the state develop a plan to make its highway rights-of-way available for renewable energy generation, energy storage and transmission lines.

“SB 49 will help California rise to the challenge of meeting its 100% clean energy goal,” said Environment California State Director Laura Deehan. “We need to double down on harnessing the sun’s vast potential to power our lives, and California’s ample supply of parking lots and highways can contribute substantially.”

Next, the bill will go to the state Senate Governance and Finance Committee. If approved, that committee would then refer the legislation to the Appropriations Committee.

solar panels on the roofs of several houses
Roschetzky Photography via Shutterstock |

Massachusetts civic leaders ask Gov. Healey to install 1 million solar roofs

During her gubernatorial campaign, Maura Healey expressed support for installing 10 gigawatts of solar power-generating capacity — the equivalent of 1 million solar roofs — by 2030. Now, approximately three months into her tenure, leaders from across the commonwealth are asking Gov. Healey to affirm her commitment and work to accelerate the growth of solar energy.

The letter, signed by 35 environmental, health and business leaders, including Environment Massachusetts, as well as local elected officials across the commonwealth, urges Gov. Healey to make solar energy a key part of Massachusetts’ strategy to address climate change. Between 2012 and 2021, the amount of solar energy generated in Massachusetts increased by more than 17 times. If solar increases by just another 2.5 times by 2030, the Bay State will have enough solar panels to cover a million roofs.

“Solar power is clean, local and abundant, and it’s going to play a key role in our transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “Now is the perfect time to set our sights on a brighter future powered by clean energy from the sun. Gov. Healey can lead the way with a commitment to install one million solar roofs by 2030.”

More than 15,000 Americans weigh in for more efficient refrigerators

Supporters of environmental and consumer organizations have directed more than 15,000 public comments to the Department of Energy in support of stronger efficiency standards for residential refrigerators.

The Department of Energy proposed updated standards for refrigerators in February for the first time in decades. The rules are expected to prevent 179 million metric tons of global warming pollution over 30 years of sales. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 48 coal-fired power plants offline for a year.

“Energy efficiency should be the first fuel we turn to as we work to power our country with clean energy,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “Updated efficiency standards for household appliances like refrigerators will reduce energy waste and pollution.”

In the news

Solar-powered warehouse rooftops could power nearly 19.4M US homes: report — The Hill, April 20, 2023

Grid reform passes Texas senate — CNHI News, April 11, 2023

Rhode Island lawmaker wants to require solar on new homes and parking lots — Energy News Network, April 5, 2023

Organizations show support for California solar carport and highway incentives — PV Magazine, March 17, 2023

New California bill aims for more solar over parking lots and along highways — Solar Power World, March 16, 2023


Johanna Neumann

Senior Director, Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, Environment America

Johanna directs strategy and staff for Environment America's energy campaigns at the local, state and national level. In her prior positions, she led the campaign to ban smoking in all Maryland workplaces, helped stop the construction of a new nuclear reactor on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and helped build the support necessary to pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which set a goal of reducing the state’s per capita electricity use by 15 percent. She also currently serves on the board of Community Action Works. Johanna lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family, where she enjoys growing dahlias, biking and the occasional game of goaltimate.