With longer days ahead, cities should lean in on solar

By Emma Searson
Director, Go Solar Campaign

New toolkit offers ten ways communities can capture energy from the sun

Today marks the first official day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Known as the spring equinox because the day and night each last almost exactly 12 hours, it’s a cause for celebration for many who, like me, are eager to leave the cold and darkness of winter behind. As a North Carolina native and recent transplant to New England, my spring fever has never been stronger. While the daylight hours grow, we embrace spring cleaning and soaking up the sunshine at every chance. This is also a great time for our communities to lean in and make the most of capturing the sun’s power with each growing day.

Environment America Research and Policy Center released a new toolkit today to support cities and towns across the country looking to use more clean renewable energy from the sun. Ten Ways Your Community Can Go Solar offers a set of tools that communities can use to take advantage of millions of available rooftops across the country. While those rooftops can pump clean energy into local electric grids all year long, the spring equinox is a timely reminder of solar energy’s remarkable potential and local governments’ role in helping capture it.

“Remarkable” actually feels like an understatement. The sun has the potential to power every aspect of our lives -- from growing our crops and turning on our lights to charging our devices and heating our water. Not only that, but it can also do it many times over. And, while our capacity to capture this plentiful energy is growing exponentially in the U.S., we can and should be doing so much more to take full advantage of this source.

While our federal government is currently taking steps backward when it comes to renewable energy, U.S. states and cities are continuing to shine as leaders. We’re seeing a surge of state governors and legislatures and dozens of cities pushing for commitments to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. Municipal leaders in every state are calling for more solar energy for their communities, and there’s evidence -- from “Fridays for Future” climate protesters to general public polls -- of vast public support for it all.

But to get it right, many cities and towns need some assistance. To that end, Environment America’s new toolkit lays out ten tactics cities to succeed:

  1. Set ambitious goals for solar energy adoption to help drive policy solutions.

  2. Lead by example and power public buildings and properties with solar energy.

  3. Eliminate red tape in zoning and permitting to clear the way for solar energy development.

  4. Adopt a solar policy for new construction, making solar the default as your community grows.

  5. Develop and publicize local financing options for solar projects.

  6. Expand access through Solarize campaigns and other bulk purchasing programs.

  7. Encourage community solar projects.

  8. Partner with your local electric utility on energy plans and solar initiatives.

  9. Consider establishing a municipal utility or community choice aggregation if your utility is unsupportive.

  10. Advocate for state-level policies that foster solar energy deployment.

The full toolkit offers more information, case studies and additional resources about each tactic.

With this resource, leaders can not only rejoice at the longer days ahead, but also take full advantage of one of our most reliable natural energy resources to power their communities with clean energy for years to come.