70 U.S. Mayors Embrace Solar and Call for Strong Policies

For Immediate Release

For More Information: Emma Searson, (617) 747-4414, esearson@environmentamerica.org

Boston, Massachusetts -- 70 U.S. mayors, representing cities from sea to shining sea, are calling for solar energy to power their communities. A statement released today by Environment America includes mayors from cities ranging from South Miami, Fla., to Traverse City, Mich., who agree on the need to tap into clean energy from the sun.

“There is no downside to solar energy,” said Naples, Fla., Mayor Bill Barnett. “It’s a win-win for all involved.”

Solar energy continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Latest figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association show that the U.S. now has enough installed solar capacity to power the equivalent of over 9 million homes. Cities that prioritize solar power have helped to drive this growth. In 2016, just 20 cities accounted for as much solar power capacity as the entire country had installed in 2010.

“Cities are natural leaders when it comes to solar energy,” said Emma Searson with Environment America. “They have high energy demand and lots of rooftop space suitable for solar panels. By pursuing local policies that prioritize solar, cities can maximize their solar potential, reduce pollution and improve public health.”

Environment America’s “Mayors for Solar Energy” statement has 70 signatories and continues to grow. It comes as state and local officials grapple with ways to promote renewable energy and work to address climate change, amid actions by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris climate accords and consider massive bailouts for outdated coal and nuclear power plants.

“Regardless of what’s happening around us, Austin will not stop fighting climate change,” said Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler. “Worldwide, cities will lead in achieving climate treaty goals because so much of what’s required happens at the local level.”

Many cities are using solar to meet ambitious renewable energy targets. Traverse City, Mich., will build a solar project to meet its goal to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

“Just last month we signed a contract in conjunction with Heritage Solar in conjunction with Traverse City Light and Power, our municipally owned power company, for a 1.2 megawatt local solar project,” said Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers. “We are currently working with other area providers to add to our renewable portfolio to meet our aggressive goal.”

Cities like Santa Monica, Calif., are going beyond municipal solar installations, creating local policies and utility arrangements that support solar energy.  

“We support solar by installing it at public facilities, creating incentives for residents and businesses to do likewise, adopting policies like our Reach Code and our most recent action to join a public power agency to procure electricity for our residents and businesses with a much greater proportion of renewables than provided by our local utility,” said Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer.

Cities like Philadelphia are receiving recognition for their progress. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said “Philadelphia is proud to have been designated a SolSmart Gold City by the US Department of Energy for our efforts to remove barriers to solar energy growth, and we are committed to supporting the growth of additional clean, renewable solar energy as a way to reduce costs and pollution.”

In the wake of devastating hurricanes this year, solar energy offered critical community resilience to some in Florida.

“Following Hurricane Irma,” said South Miami, Fla., Mayor Philip Stoddard, “we plugged our fridge into the inverter on our roof-top solar system. It kept the beer cold and the Klondike Bars frozen until the utility power came back up a week later.”

Mayors of towns large and small signed on to the letter, including Nederland, Colo., population 1,445.

"Solar is the obvious path forward for small towns like Nederland to reduce their emissions and impact on the planet,” said Nederland Mayor Kristopher Larsen.

The letter notes many positive aspects of local solar development that many cities are already achieving with commitments to clean energy.

“The transition to a clean energy future is one of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century for cities to improve community health, quality of life, environmental sustainability, and a vibrant and robust economy,” said Orlando, Fla., Director of Sustainability Chris Castro. “More than 50 percent of the world's population now lives in cities, we have to be the ones that are leading on the important issues such as climate change, resilience, and urban sustainability.”

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What Selected Mayors Have to Say About Solar:

Glenn Hendricks, Mayor, Sunnyvale, Calif.: "Given that we’re a ‘sun’ namesake, Sunnyvale supports solar by definition! Our commitment to renewable energy sources like solar is evident by Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the local community choice energy agency we helped launch in 2017. Sustainability is part of our organization’s DNA and we’re continuing to work with our community to find new ways to meet our aggressive climate action goals.”

Bill Barnett, Mayor, Naples, Fla.: “There is no downside to solar energy, it’s a win, win for all involved.”

Steve Adler, Mayor, Austin, Texas: “Austin will not stop fighting climate change. Worldwide, cities will lead in achieving climate treaty goals because so much of what’s required happens at the local level. Regardless of what happens around us, we're still Austin, Texas, and that means aggressively increasing the amount of power we get from renewable resources to 65% by 2027.”

Jim Carruthers, Mayor, Traverse City, Mich.: "Traverse City has set an aggressive 100% renewable energy goal for itself by the year 2020 and we are well on our way at meet this goal. Just last month we signed a contract with Heritage Solar in conjunction with Traverse City Light and Power, our municipally owned power company, for a 1.2 megawatt local solar project.  We also have an option to purchase 2 additional megawatts in the near future.  We are currently working with other area providers to add to our renewable portfolio to meet our aggressive goal.  As you may already know, Traverse City placed the first municipal owned and operated utility grade wind generator here 20 years ago.  Traverse City is proud to be leaders in the renewable energy market and we are doing everything we can to more efficiently operate our systems through alternative resources.”

Ted Winterer, Mayor, Santa Monica, Calif.: “Santa Monica has ambitious environmental goals, including carbon neutrality by 2050. Solar is an essential tool to reduce our carbon emissions. We support solar by installing it at public facilities, creating incentives for residents and businesses to do likewise, adopting policies like our Reach Code and our most recent action to join a public power agency to procure electricity for our residents and businesses with a much greater proportion of renewables than provided by our local utility.”

Jim Kenney, Mayor, Philadelphia: “Solar energy is a key tool to achieving our clean energy future. Philadelphia is proud to have been designated a SolSmart Gold City by the US Department of Energy for our efforts to remove barriers to solar energy growth, and we are committed to supporting the growth of additional clean, renewable solar energy as a way to reduce costs and pollution.”

Philip Stoddard, Mayor, South Miami, Fla.: “Following Hurricane Irma, we plugged our fridge into the Sunny Boy inverter on our roof-top solar system.  It kept the beer cold and the Klondike Bars frozen until the utility power came back up a week later.”

Kris Larsen, Mayor, Nederland, Colo.: "Solar is the obvious path forward for small towns like Nederland to reduce their emissions and impact on the planet. Not only is pursuing this goal the right thing to do, it's strengthening our sense of community to do so."

Chris Castro, Director of Sustainability, Orlando, Fla.: "The transition to a clean energy future is one of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century for cities to improve community health, quality of life, environmental sustainability, and a vibrant and robust economy. More than 50 percent of the world's population now lives in cities, so we have to be the ones that are leading on the important issues such as climate change, resiliency, and urban sustainability. That's why Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City of Orlando leadership has decided to show our support for this effort and will continue pushing forward to our 100% renewable energy goals.”