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Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by Rebecca Toews | No Comments | Updated on Jun 1, 2015

Public Rooftop Revolution Report

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/public-rooftop-revolution/

5 gigs municipal solar

There are a lot of stories on residential rooftop solar but few if any on what cities are doing to make themselves energy self-reliant by using their own buildings and lands to generate power.

In Public Rooftop Revolution, ILSR estimates that mid-sized cities could install as much as 5,000 megawatts of solar—as much as one-quarter of all solar installed in the U.S. to date—on municipal property, with little to no upfront cash. It would allow cities to redirect millions in saved energy costs to other public purposes.

This report is being released in serial format, beginning Monday, June 1 through Thursday, June 4. CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR UPDATES.

Read the Executive Summary

Read Part 1 of the report

Read Part 2 of the report


Listen to our podcast conversations with a few of our Featured Five municipal solar cities:

Lancaster, CA city manager Jason Caudle, listen to the podcast, read the interview summary.

Raleigh, NC renewable energy coordinator Robert Hinson, listen to the podcast, read the interview summary.


Executive Summary

In 2012, ILSR published a pair of reports that projected, by 2021,10% of electricity in the U.S. could come from solar and at a lower price—without subsidies—than utility-provided electricity. In 2014 and 2015, Environment America’s Shining Cities reports examined how cities were catalysts for solar development.

However, there has been a missing piece in the examination of how cities can support solar energy: what city leaders have done and can do to use solar on their own buildings.

ILSR estimates that over 5,000 megawatts (MW) of solar could be inexpensively installed almost immediately on municipal property—more than a quarter of the nationwide total solar capacity through September 2014. This includes just the municipal buildings of the approximately 200 cities with 100,000 or greater population. But it requires city officials to overcome a few, surmountable barriers.

The Public Rooftop Solar Opportunity

The opportunity of municipal solar spans financial savings, pollution reductions, and job creation:

Energy Savings: New Bedford, MA, is saving $6 to $7 million per year on electricity through its 16 MW of solar installations on municipal properties, which is 2.5% of the entire city budget.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions: Maximizing New York City’s solar potential with 410 MW of solar would reduce emissions by 1.78 million metric tons, 3.7% of the city’s total emissions.

Significant Economic Impact: Maximizing Kansas City’s municipal solar potential of 70 MW could create 1400 jobs and add $175 million to the local economy.

Overcoming the Economic Barrier with 3rd Parties

The primary incentive for solar is the 30% federal tax credit, a deal that doesn’t apply to local governments. The federal government also provides accelerated depreciation for solar projects, resulting in a tax write-off worth nearly another 30% of a project’s value. The following charts illustrates how the limitations of federal incentives make the economics more challenging for municipally-owned solar. 

Although cities face a number of challenges, economic and otherwise, to installing solar, the third party ownership option—if available—ought to trump most of them. For suitable sites that won’t need a near-term roof replacement, third party ownership removes virtually all of the financial barriers to solar, and covers maintenance and operations. While some barriers (like lack of aggregate or virtual net metering) remain, most cities have a substantial solar opportunity.

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ayn rand and adam smith cropped
Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on May 29, 2015

Adam Smith vs. Ayn Rand

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/adam-smith-vs-ayn-rand/

In a 2011 CNN/Tea Party Express Republican Debate moderator Wolf Blitzer famously asked prominent libertarian Representative Ron Paul a “hypothetical question” about the soon-to-be-operational Obamacare: What should be done when a 30-year old man decides not to buy health insurance and then requires significant medical intervention that he cannot afford? Paul predictably responded. He should… Continue reading

Cost of Residential Solar v. US Residential Retail
Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by Rebecca Toews | No Comments | Updated on May 15, 2015

Beyond Utility 2.0: Part 4 “Next Steps”

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/beyond-utility-2-0-part-4-next-steps/

Principles, Structure, and Policies of Energy Democracy Energy democracy can best be described as an electricity system that empowers the individuals and communities that have the energy resources of the 21st century (e.g. wind and solar) to economically benefit from their use. It shares the principles of utility 2.0 – an efficient, low- carbon, and… Continue reading

North Carolina
Featured Article filed under Broadband | Written by Lisa Gonzalez | No Comments | Updated on May 22, 2015

North Carolina Files Petition Opposing FCC Ruling to End Anti-Muni Laws

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/north-carolina-files-petition-opposing-fcc-ruling-to-end-anti-muni-laws/

It took a while, but the State of North Carolina finally decided to take its turn at the throat of the FCC. Attorneys filed a Petition for Review in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals similar to the one filed by the State of Tennessee in March. The Petition is available for download below. Our… Continue reading

Illustration: Seesaw
Featured Article, ILSR Press Room filed under Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on May 8, 2015

How Washington Punishes Small Business

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/how-washington-punishes-small-business/

Small business looms large in American political rhetoric. From the campaign trail to the floor of the U.S. House and Senate, members of Congress love to evoke the diner and dry cleaner, the neighborhood grocer and local hardware store. Ensuring the well-being of Main Street, we might easily assume, is one of their central policy aims. The legislative track record tells another story. It is one in which the interests of big corporations are dominant, and many laws and regulations seem designed to bend the marketplace in their favor and put small, independent businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Continue reading