Cities increasingly drawn to the potential of solar power

Wed, 2015-10-07 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Rockford, with a population of about 4,300, may not seem a likely candidate for embarking on a major solar project but the Minnesota town is going ahead with one in partnership with local utility Wright-Hennepin Electric Co-op.

To achieve its goal, the city is providing space for the solar arrays which will be built and maintained by the electric co-op. A 60-panel array will be located on the roof of a not-so-successful strip mall the city bought and is restoring. A larger one, 200 panels, will be located on a parcel of land the city owns that can’t be developed for other uses.

The project is expected to yield cost savings of 7%, which will be passed along to local taxpayers, according to TV station KARE. As Mayor Renee Hafften said, “It’s one more way to become more green in our community and also send that cost savings along to the community residents, because they are the ones who pay the city’s electric bills.”

Solarizing Blacksburg, Virginia
A program designed to get more citizens to go solar, Solarize Blacksburg, departed from the traditional approach to cutting solar costs, which has been for neighbors to join forces and choose a contractor to install solar systems. Non-profit Community Housing Partners, which helps run Solarize Blacksburg, picked contractors first and worked with them on specific prices and specifications. The approach was risky given the state’s regulatory climate, a city official said -- but the program was a success and led to its replication in surrounding Montgomery County. 

Rutland, Vermont meets its solar goal
Green Mountain Power had a long-time goal of providing the city of Rutland the most electricity per capita from solar power than anyone else in the region. And after confirming with other cities in New England, Rutland now refers to itself as the solar capital of New England. A total of 51 solar projects in the city now provide 7.8 megawatts of installed solar capacity.

You might also like to know

  • Cities in California have their hands full with the passage of a new state law that requires counties and cities to speed up the processing of residential rooftop solar installations to meet the accelerating demand. The law is expected to reduce the waiting time for permitting and final inspection (which had taken weeks) to days for installations that quality.
  • Where’s the sun? Council Lead Partner IBM is tackling how to make integrating solar into the country’s electric grids by accurately predicting the occurrence of cloud cover. Some companies already provide such a service, but IBM researchers say improved accuracy of the technology will become increasingly important as the amount of solar integrated into electric grids grows. 


 Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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