Solar power is growing quickly, taking over as a primary clean energy source in cities all across the Nation. As solar power becomes less expensive and dirty energy sources such as coal, oil and gas become more expensive, this trend is likely to continue. Solar energy provides a long-term solution to American energy problems in many US cities already and the top 20 solar cities have made impressive progress.
Proactive Government Is Leading The Way
In California, huge strides have been made in recent years. Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, a massive solar project powering 160,000 homes has recently opened in Riverside County, but small residential and commercial projects are leading the way. Ranked by total gigawatt outputin the US, Los Angeles (1), San Diego (2), San Jose (4), San Francisco (9) and Sacramento (12), all lead the way in California clean energy.
Many cities and states, including California have taken proactive strides to make solar energy possible. California has extended its Solar Property Tax Exclusion, until 2025. this allows home owners and businesses to install solar panels without the fear of higher property taxes. Relaxed permitting laws in the state have prompted several large corporations to go solar, including Walgreens and Walmart.
Colorado has also taken a proactive position, offering a rebate program and property tax exemption for solar installation. Denver (8) has been particularly successful in making clean energy a better alternative. The Denver Federal Center (DFC) uses solar power for 22% of its energy needs. This is particularly helpful to the environment, since Denver gets most of its energy from coal-fired plants that pollute at a very high rate.
Delaware, New Jersey and Massachusetts have all approved legislation that encourages solar energy installation. Boston (20) and Newark (16) have been greatly impacted through these changes, allowing them to penetrate the list as two of the top 20 solar cities.
High Electricity Costs Are Driving Solar Expansion
Electricity costs have gone through the roof in recent years. After a landmark deregulation of State energy sources near the turn of the Century, California experienced one of the worst energy crises in modern history. Prices exponentially skyrocketed, causing blackouts and ushering in a dangerous situation. Although the crisis was alleviated, such a scare certainly helped to encourage the solar revolution. Unfortunately, in recent years the cost of electricity has continued to rise.
Electricity costs in the US rose an average of 3.2% from 2013 to 2014. While higher than the rise in the cost of living, and much higher than the rise in the average wage, some areas felt the brunt of this more than others. New England experienced an 11.8% rise. The Mid-Atlantic region similarly suffered a 6.7% jump in electricity costs.
Such inconsistent changes in energy costs across the Nation, and particularly in the hardest hit regions are stoking the trend toward solar power. More households and businesses, as well as local, State and Federal government entities are installing solar energy sources in order to avoid the rising cost of electricity from dirty sources. Cleaner air and fewer pollution-related events continue help define the economic impacts of these changes.
Less Expensive Solar Panels Make Solar A Better Alternative
With the rise in energy costs, inconsistency in energy availability and other problems associated with major utilities and dirty electricity, solar panels have continued decline in cost. Panels are becoming less expensive as new technologies provide more efficient solar photo-voltaic technology. As more governments, businesses and home owners buy solar panels, the cost to produce them, install them and finance them has continued to decline.
Some companies are even offering financing programs that allow a home owner or business to buy and install the panels, while paying over a period of time. This allows the buyer an option to pay for the panels with the savings over the costs of utility power. Solar is here to stay.
Grid Parity is being reached around the world – that means that solar is either the same price or lower than fossil fuels or nuclear to produce energy. Sweet!