Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center
Albuquerque – Today, Environment New Mexico was joined at Silver Gardens Apartments by City Councilor Isaac Benton and Patrick Griebel, General Manager of Affordable Solar, to release a new report: “Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution,” The report ranks Albuquerque 14th of major cities for the amount of solar installed and 16th for solar installed per capita, and provides a first-of-its-kind comparative look at the growth of solar in major American cities.
“Cities are the focal point of this solar energy revolution and that has Albuquerque looking on the bright side,” said Sanders Moore, Director of Environment New Mexico.
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.
“Solar power is booming across the country and cities are at the forefront,” said Moore. “As one of the top 20 ranking cities, Albuquerque is a case in point.”
With the cost of solar coming down, there’s growing awareness of solar power as a mainstream energy solution with widespread benefits for our health, our economy and the environment.
“Both in the public and private sectors, as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs, solar energy helps us meet many of our environmental and economic goals,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton. “Let’s shoot to be a top 10 solar city.”
The report highlighted the benefits of solar energy, including:
Solar energy helps the New Mexico economy— New Mexico has 1,900 solar jobs, growing by 73 percent since last year. The solar industry rapidly absorbed jobs being shed by construction and other industries during the Great Recession, and continues to grow.
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 fossil-fuel-burning power plants.
Solar energy protects consumers— Since solar has no fuel costs, it can protect us from the rising cost of fossil fuels.
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 is smart, because it’s clean, it’s local, and is an important hedge against run-away increases in energy costs. Solar is more affordable than it’s ever been and is a symbol of the direction we should be headed on energy,” said Patrick Griebel, General Manager of Affordable Solar. “By ramping up solar, we can reduce pollution, while creating well-paid, long-term, and local jobs in our communities.”
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.
- 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 [Local Program]
- 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.
“The sky’s the limit on solar energy. Albuquerque is a shining example of solar leadership,” said Moore. “But, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential to capture this pollution-free energy source. By committing to bold goals and expanding on the good policies we’ve adopted, we can take solar to the next level.”