Los Angeles—More of those flat warehouse rooftops baking in the Los Angeles sun are soon to become mini-solar electricity power plants thanks to a new law signed today by Los Angeles City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The city’s much anticipated solar feed-in tariff program, which received unanimous votes by the City Council last week, will set in motion a 10 megawatt demonstration program that will enable Angelenos to transform underutilized rooftop spaces on multifamily residences, schools, warehouses, parking lots and retail spaces into a valuable and clean energy resource.
Michelle Kinman, Environment California’s clean energy advocate, was on hand to comment on today’s signing. “Angelenos can celebrate that the city has made an exciting commitment to solar power,” said Kinman. “If city leaders continue to embrace visionary solar policies, the sky’s the limit when it comes to LA’s solar potential.”
Los Angeles is the second ranked city in the state, behind San Diego, both in terms of the number of solar installations on residential, commercial and government buildings and the total amount of solar electricity generated. According to Environment California Research & Policy Center’s report “California Solar Cities 2012,” Los Angeles had installed just over 4,000 solar projects and 36 megawatts of solar capacity as of August 2011.
While Los Angeles is a leader in terms of absolute numbers, it has yet to achieve the concentration of solar power seen in other major cities, measured on a per capita basis. “Given all the city’s sunshine and rooftop spaces, Los Angeles should be leading not only the state, but the nation towards a clean energy future,” said Kinman.
The feed-in tariff program can drive a market for medium-sized solar projects installed on spaces where there is little on-site electricity demand and ample space to install solar panels. Through this program, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will purchase the electricity “fed-into the grid” from participating local solar systems, under long-term contracts with the system owners. Well-designed and cost-effective feed-in tariffs have created some of the world’s strongest markets for solar power and there is every reason to believe that this type of policy will enable Los Angeles to convert its rooftop potential into a competitive solar market.
Environment California is a member of the CLEAN LA Coalition, a broad coalition of business, environmental and labor groups, led by the Los Angeles Business Council, which has advocated for a robust feed-in tariff program. In addition to securing the 10 MW pilot program, the coalition seeks to ensure that LADWP’s 2012/2013 budget includes 75 MW of solar feed-in tariff programming, and that 150 MW are budgeted by 2016. At these levels, the city will create an estimated 4,500 jobs, generate $500 million in economic activity and offset 2.25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016.
“The feed-in tariff demonstration program is an important step towards creating a sustainable future for Los Angeles,” concluded Kinman. “Continued investment in solar policies will decrease our dependence on dirty energy resources, build a sustainable economy based on market growth, clean air, and jobs, and solidify LA’s role as a clean energy leader.”