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Funding small-scale solar projects for widespread gains

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 3rd, 2012


Photo by Rajiv Patel (Rajiv’s View) via flickr CC

From “Solar rooftops sought in poor communities” by Bernice Yeung:

San Diego is home to more than 2,600 solar residential rooftops – more than any other California city – but in the neighboring lower-income community of National City, there are only about a dozen.

A bill before the California Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce this month seeks to equalize renewable energy installation in the state by promoting small-scale solar rooftops in the disadvantaged communities. The bill targets neighborhoods with high unemployment rates and those that “bear a disproportionate burden from air pollution, disease, and other impacts from the generation of electricity from the burning of fossil fuels,” the bill said. Bill author Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Mountain View, said the legislation would create jobs and build “cleaner, safer, and healthier neighborhoods.”

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The legislation would require the state to install enough systems to produce 375 megawatts of renewable energy – or about 1,000 small-scale projects – in disadvantaged communities between 2014 and the end of 2020. Utility companies are required by a 2011 state law to achieve a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020. The renewable energy systems supported by Fong’s bill would take the form of rooftop solar installations on apartment complexes and commercial buildings, and each project would be limited to producing 500 kilowatts of power, a project the size of a typical Costco rooftop. Advocates say passage of the bill could improve both the health and economy of these low-income communities.

Through a program known as “feed-in tariff,” the owner of the solar panels would be able to earn revenue by selling back unused energy to the local utility company. Additionally, the bill promotes the hiring of local workers to install the solar panels. And because reliance on carbon dioxide-emitting power plants used during periods of high energy demand – called peaker plants – could be decreased with an increase in renewable energy creation, there are health implications to the bill, said Strela Cervas of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, which sponsored the legislation.

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Read the full article by Bernice Yeung on California Watch.

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