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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 solarThere 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.

Download the full report

Read the Executive Summary

Read Part 1 of the report

Read Part 2 of the report

Read Part 3 of the report

Read Part 4 of the report

Read the full report in (poorly formatted) ePub or Kindle format


Podcast Conversations:

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.

Kansas City project manager Charles Harris, 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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beyond utility 2 cover image
Featured Article filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by Rebecca Toews | No Comments | Updated on Apr 22, 2015

Beyond Utility 2.0: Part 1 “A Prelude to the Future”

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-1-prelude/

The U.S. electricity system is undergoing the biggest change in its 130-­year history. The scale of electricity generation is rapidly shrinking, from coal and nuclear power plants that can power a million homes to solar and wind power plants that power a few to a few hundred nearby homes. Electricity demand has leveled off, so… Continue reading

beyond utility 2 cover image
Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by Rebecca Toews | No Comments | Updated on Dec 9, 2014

New Report: Beyond Utility 2.0 to Energy Democracy

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

Exciting changes are on the horizon for our century-old utility structure as solar power, energy storage, and electric vehicles open new avenues for utility customers to produce their own power and control their energy use. Utilities are scrambling to remain relevant in this technological firestorm, and energy wonks are envisioning a new business model –… Continue reading

us power plant capacity additions 2014 thru Q3 ILSR
Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Dec 18, 2014

Distributed Solar a Substantial Portion of 2014 Power Plant Capacity

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://www.ilsr.org/distributed-solar-substantial-portion-2014-power-plant-capacity/

Renewable energy continues to grow substantially in the U.S. and in 2014 it remains a large portion of new power plant capacity – 30% or more through the first three quarters. Often overlooked, distributed solar on residential and commercial property is making up a substantial share of new electrical generating capacity.  The following chart illustrates… 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