All across the U.S., local governments with varying community needs and resources are turning to solar power as a clean and reliable source to answer energy demands. In his three part series, "Three Ways Local Governments Can Use Solar Power for Themselves," Ben Miller, staff writer for Government Technology, examines how local governments in Yolo County, CA, Washington, D.C., and Phoenix, AZ use solar to benefit their organizations. Read this solar series to help your local government organization gain insight into the numerous opportunities and benefits available when positioning your organization and community to address solar investment and development.
Part 1: Yolo County, CA
Abstract: With perhaps one of the most aggressive programs for deploying solar power for government operations in the country, Yolo County actually generates about 50 percent more electricity than it uses. According to County Administrator Terry Vernon, the county started deploying solar panels in its general services department in 2010. That means it actually makes money from selling electricity to a utility on top of essentially zeroing out its own power expenditures.
Part 2: Washington, D.C.
Abstract: Washington, D.C., like many local governments, has long faced “peak demand charges” for using so much power. Essentially it pays the utility a certain amount to be ready to supply as much power as the city government will need on the day of the year when it uses the most.
And that’s a big part of the reason solar power can help save the district money, even if its portfolio of panels doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting 100 percent of its needs.
Abstract: It might not always make sense for a city or county government to go all-in on solar power. Take Phoenix for example. One of the most populous cities in the U.S., Phoenix exists in a state where the financials of solar power can be tricky. Unlike in California, where net metering programs give solar owners a way to sell unused energy for as much as they would buy it for, selling solar energy in Arizona would make the city less money than it cost to produce.
But that hasn’t stopped Phoenix’s municipal government from putting up photovoltaic panels. Instead of relying on selling electricity, the city uses solar to cut its power bills and meet environmental goals.
SolSmart: making it cheaper, easier, and faster for your community to go solar
In its most recent initiative, The U.S. Department of Energy has funded a partnership between ICMA and The Solar Foundation (TSF) to launch the SolSmart designation program. The goal of SolSmart is to encourage city and county governments throughout the United States to improve local solar policies and processes. In its role, ICMA leads the effort to designate communities under SolSmart by reviewing applications and determining whether your community meets the criteria for designation. TSF is responsible for providing no-cost technical assistance to help your community qualify for designation. As a local goverment organization, participation in the SolSmart program helps to reduce the soft costs of going solar and signals your community is “open for solar business,” which can help to spur solar adoption, create jobs, and boost the local economy. Additionally, communities receiving designation will be nationally recognized for their participation. Learn More