Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center
Minneapolis City Hall — Thursday morning, Environment Minnesota was joined outside City Hall by Councilmember Cam Gordon, and solar users Jim Frye and Dale Howey to release a report: Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution the first-of-its-kind comparative look at the growth of solar energy in major American cities.
“Cities are the focal point of this solar energy revolution and that has Minneapolis looking on the bright side,” said Samantha Chadwick Advocate with Environment Minnesota. The report ranks Minneapolis 37th for the amount of solar per capita (and 38th cumulatively) among 57 ranked metros, calling the city a “solar builder” in comparison to other cities from “beginners” to “solar stars”
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. 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 six years ago.
“Solar power is booming across the country and cities are at the forefront,” said Chadwick, “the progress we are seeing here and around the country should give us the confidence we can do more.”
With solar module prices coming down, increasing national awareness of solar energy, and a growing legion of solar businesses large and small, solar power is emerging as a mainstream energy solution with widespread benefits for our health, our economy and the environment.
As a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs, solar energy help us meet a lot of our city’s environmental and economic goals,” said City Council Member Cam Gordon, chair of the Health, Environment and Community Engagement committee. He expressed his excitement for the inclusion of Minneapolis as one of the top 50 ranked cities for installed solar capacity and the city’s commitment to expanding solar capacity in years to come.
Dale Howey, owner of Green Rock Apartments, has installed 60,000 watts of roof top solar, for a cost of 34,000 dollars after incentives, with a 5 year payback from savings. “I have committed the rest of my life to sustainable energy, and living, and its promotion. Let us all reflect on what we hold dear, our true shared values, and act now for the future,” said Howey.
State policy passed last year means Minnesota will see an increase in solar electricity of more than 30-fold by 2020. In order to reach the new state goal of 10% solar, many solar initiatives are taking off in Minneapolis and across the state. Jim Frye is a local resident and one of 25 subscribers to the first solar garden in Minneapolis, which the company Minnesota Community Solar plans to install on the rooftop of a commercial building on Lake Street. “The air we pollute is the air we breathe,” said Frye, “so that’s why we decided to tap into the clean power of the Minnesota Community Solar gardens.”
The report pointed to policies that encourage investment in solar PV installations, which have been adopted by local leaders in solar cities:
• 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 Minneapolis Police Precinct #3, multiple fire stations and more.
• 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; like the Wind and Solar-Electric (PV) Systems Exemption, which offers property tax exemption for commercial, industrial and residential properties that install solar.
• City leaders can work with state governments 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.
“Solar energy is clean, ready to go and on the rise” added Chadwick. “Major cities across the country are leading the way, and Minneapolis is ready to be part of this solar revolution. By committing to bold goals and putting strong policies in place, we can make Minneapolis shine as a national leader and reap the environmental and economic benefits of clean, local solar power.”