New Report Highlights Solar Energy in Atlanta and Other Major U.S. Cities

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Environment Georgia Research & Policy Center

Atlanta– Today, Environment Georgia was joined at the Atlanta headquarters of Hannah Solar by Atlanta’s Director of Sustainabilty, the Chairwoman of Atlanta’s Utility Committee and the CEO of Hannah Solar to release a new report, “Shining Cities:  At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution.” The report provides a first-of-its-kind comparative look at the growth of solar power in major American cities. 

“Solar power is booming across the country and cities are at the forefront,” said Jennette Gayer, Director of Environment Georgia.  “The progress we are seeing here and around the country should give us the confidence we can do more.”

The report found that there is more than 200 times as much solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed in the U.S. today compared to 2002, much of that in America’s cities The top 20 cities account for 7 percent of the installed photovoltaic solar, while occupying only 0.1 percent of the land area. 

“As a pollution-free energy source, solar energy is helping Atlanta’s progress toward both its environmental and economic goals,” said Denise Quarles, Director of Sustainability for the City of Atlanta. “We’re looking forward to continued progress.”

Atlanta, with roughly 3 MW of solar power installed (enough to power around 500 homes) ranks 36 for total solar installed and 34th for solar per capita. In the Southeast Charlotte, Raleigh and New Orleans which ranks 11th with 22 MW of solar power ranked above Atlanta.

“Solar is clean, its local, and it’s a symbol of the direction Atlanta is headed,” said City Council President Ceasar Mitchell. “By ramping up solar, we can reduce pollution, while creating local jobs in our communities.” 

With the cost of solar coming down, growing awareness of the benefits of solar power is emerging as a mainstream energy solution with widespread benefits for our health, our economy and the environment.  

“In Atlanta, there is a strong interest in harnessing our abundant sunshine for clean energy.” Said Chairwoman Natalyn Archibong. “As Chair of City Utilities, I look forward to exploring policies that will make Atlanta a solar leader in the South and cross the country.”

The report highlighted the benefits of solar energy including: 

Solar energy avoids pollution—Pollution-free energy from the sun reduces air pollution that contributes to urban smog and global warming.  It also helps save the massive amount of water that’s normally consumed during the cooling of a fossil fuel burning power plant.  

Solar energy protects consumers— Since solar has no fuel costs, it can protect us from the rising cost of fossil fuels.

Solar energy helps the economy— Georgia has 2,600 solar jobs, growing by 225% since last year.

The top 20 solar cities in this report have more solar power within their city limits than was installed in the entire U.S. just five years ago. 

“Solar is taking off in Georgia thanks to smart decisions made by the Public Service Commission,” said Pete Marte, the CEO of Hannah Solar a solar installer based in Atlanta.  “We’d love to see Atlanta make the same progress, our business is proof that the jobs will follow.”

Forward-thinking local leaders have helped make this happen by adopting policies that encourage investment in solar PV installations:

  • City leaders can set ambitious and achievable goals and citizens and businesses can work with local governments to meet them.  Cities can lead by example by putting solar on public buildings such as the solar canopies in parks along the Atlanta Beltline;
  • Cities can adopt policies to advance solar power in their communities, including tax incentives, low interest loan programs and solar friendly zoning and building codes.  Cities can also run “Solarize” programs that use bulk purchasing and educational campaigns to help neighbors “go solar” together;
  • City leaders can work with state government to ensure that they have strong programs to expand solar, including renewable energy standards, solar carve-outs or feed-in tariffs,  net metering and community solar programs.
  • City leaders can also demand a strong partnership with the Federal government to ensure that federal incentives such as tax credits are continued.  And, that federal programs, such as the Solar America’s Cities and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant programs continue to provide support and technical assistance to cities seeking to expand solar.

“We’ve made progress here in Atlanta, but we’ve just begun,” said Gayer.   “By committing to bold goals and putting strong policies in place, we can make Atlanta shine as a national leader and reap the environmental and economic benefits of the solar revolution.”