Dozens of U.S. mayors from across the country have signaled their public support for solar energy to power their communities. A statement released Tuesday by advocacy group Environment America includes signatures from city mayors and local officials ranging from South Miami, Fla., to Traverse City, Mich., who agree on the need to tap into clean energy from the sun.
“There is no downside to solar energy,” comments Naples, Fla., Mayor Bill Barnett. “It’s a win-win for all involved.”
Solar energy continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Latest figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association show that the U.S. now has enough installed solar capacity to power the equivalent of over 9 million homes, and Environment America says cities that prioritize solar power have helped to drive this growth. In 2016, just 20 cities accounted for as much solar power capacity as the entire country had installed in 2010.
“Cities are natural leaders when it comes to solar energy,” says Emma Searson with Environment America. “They have high energy demand and lots of rooftop space suitable for solar panels. By pursuing local policies that prioritize solar, cities can maximize their solar potential, reduce pollution and improve public health.”
According to Environment America, its “Mayors for Solar Energy” statement has 70 signatories and continues to grow. The organization says the statement comes as state and local officials grapple with ways to promote renewable energy and work to address climate change, amid actions by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and consider bailouts for coal and nuclear power plants.
“Regardless of what’s happening around us, Austin will not stop fighting climate change,” says Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler. “Worldwide, cities will lead in achieving climate treaty goals because so much of what’s required happens at the local level.”
Many cities are using solar to meet ambitious renewable energy targets. Traverse City, Mich., will build a solar project to help meet its goal to use 100% renewable energy by 2020.
“Just last month, we signed a contract with Heritage Solar in conjunction with Traverse City Light and Power, our municipally owned power company, for a 1.2 MW local solar project,” explains Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers. “We are currently working with other area providers to add to our renewable portfolio to meet our aggressive goal.”
Cities like Santa Monica, Calif., are going beyond municipal solar installations, creating local policies and utility arrangements that support solar energy.
“We support solar by installing it at public facilities, creating incentives for residents and businesses to do likewise, adopting policies like our Reach Code and our most recent action to join a public power agency to procure electricity for our residents and businesses with a much greater proportion of renewables than provided by our local utility,” says Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer.
Cities like Philadelphia are receiving recognition for their progress. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says, “Philadelphia is proud to have been designated a SolSmart Gold City by the U.S. Department of Energy for our efforts to remove barriers to solar energy growth, and we are committed to supporting the growth of additional clean, renewable solar energy as a way to reduce costs and pollution.”
In the wake of devastating hurricanes this year, solar energy offered critical community resilience to some in Florida.
“Following Hurricane Irma,” says South Miami, Fla., Mayor Philip Stoddard, “we plugged our fridge into the inverter on our rooftop solar system. It kept the beer cold and the Klondike Bars frozen until the utility power came back up a week later.”
Mayors of towns large and small signed on to the statement, including Nederland, Colo., population 1,445.
“Solar is the obvious path forward for small towns like Nederland to reduce their emissions and impact on the planet,” says Nederland Mayor Kristopher Larsen.
The “Mayors for Solar” statement, including a list of the initial signatories, is available here.