Lancaster, CA solar capital?

What does it take to turn a city into a solar power powerhouse of jobs and clean energy profit? Mostly the will to do it, plus some public relations and business relations.

Felicity Barringer wrote for NYTimes 8 April 2013, With Help From Nature, a Town Aims to Be a Solar Capital, the mayor of Lancaster, California, R. Rex Parris, said,

“We want to be the first city that produces more electricity from solar energy than we consume on a daily basis,”

And then the city of Lancaster took action, requiring

that almost all new homes either come equipped with solar panels or be in subdivisions that produce one kilowatt of solar energy per house. He also was able to recruit the home building giant KB Home to implement his vision, despite the industry’s overall resistance to solar power.

Result, according to one solar tracker?

the city tripled the number of residential installations in the past 18 months.

The article overstates what is required:

This means Lancaster’s rooftops, alfalfa fields and parking lots must be covered with solar panels….

They wouldn’t be alfalfa fields, then, would they? That’s like the old Georgia canard that we’d have to clear an area the size of Atlanta to power Atlanta with solar power. We already have an area that size cleared: it’s called Atlanta!

The article also make much of California destert sunshine, but eventually gets at a larger point:

While the desert sunshine in California and Arizona helped put those states atop the national solar energy rankings, towns in cloudier regions are also adopting it. Napoleon, Ohio, for instance, benefits from 14 megawatts of local solar power.

And Saginaw, Michigan not only installs solar, it manufactures solar. Almost any city in the U.S. has more sunshine than any city in Germany, the world leader in solar power.

Here’s how Lancastar started in solar installations:

His solar push began about three years ago; City Hall, the performing arts center and the stadium together now generate 1.5 megawatts. Solar arrays on churches, a big medical office, a developer’s office and a Toyota dealership provide 4 more.

Meanwhile the number of solar panels on any of those things in Valdosta, Hahira, Lake Park, Remerton, Dasher, or the Lowndes County palace is: zero.

“A lot of what we’re doing appears to be public relations,” the mayor conceded. “It has that taint to it. But what we’re doing is scalable and portable.” Lancaster is already marketing its power to other municipalities.

That last part means Lancaster, CA is making money by selling solar power to other cities. Maybe the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) should pay attention, instead of opposing SB 51 that would have reformed the antique 1973 Territorial Electric Service Act, which says you can only sell power you generate to your one and only pre-determined electric utility, at whatever rate that utility sets. GMA could be promoting solar power for financial benefits to Georgia cities, such as the 40% savings Dublin High School will realize.