An increasing number of cities throughout the country are turning toward clean, efficient, renewable energy to power their facilities and infrastructure. These renewable energy systems allow cities to become more independent from the grid and imported fossil fuels, boost the market for renewable technologies, increase job availability, move to more reliable and affordable resources, and display a visible public commitment to a sustainable energy future.
Below are examples of existing standards for renewable energy, existing policies and programs that are and/or have been implemented by cities throughout the country, as well as different incentive programs that are being offered by the cities in order to boost the use of renewable energy throughout the community.
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is partnering with Sacramento builders to offer SMUD Solar Smart Homes - new homes that are built with energy efficient features and a solar PV system. Every system produces electricity for the home and saves up to 60% on an average electric bill.
Shoreview, Minnesota has had a solar access protection ordinance since the 1970's (mandated by the state for all municipalities). The city has incorporated the ordinance in the Shoreview Comprehensive Guide Plan 2000.
The City's Development Ordinance regulates solar access protection for those developments that choose to use passive or active solar energy systems. All new subdivisions and planned unit developments are encouraged to be designed to accommodate the present or future use of passive and active solar energy systems with special attention given to street, lot and building orientation. Energy efficient buildings are also encouraged. New buildings should be designed and fitted to permit the addition or conversion of the hot water heating system to solar energy. Builders and developers must demonstrate their ability for incorporating active and passive solar energy systems in new buildings, installing energy-efficient appliances and lighting systems, and using exterior landscaping to reduce the energy demands of new construction.
The Development Ordinance also provides an incentive for developers who incorporate solar energy systems in their development projects. A density bonus of up to 5% may be given to developments that use passive energy systems on at least 80% of the dwelling units. And a density bonus of up to 10% may be given to all developments that use active energy systems for space heating, air conditioning and/or domestic hot water heating on at least 30% of the dwellings.
The course of action the city decided to take was to continue to enforce the ordinance and to educate the general public on the benefits of renewable energies and efficiency.
Before a development plan can be approved in the City of Santa Cruz, it must be found that the orientation and location of buildings, structures, open spaces and other features of the site plan preserve solar access of adjacent properties. In addition, buildings and structures should be designed and oriented to make use of natural elements such as solar radiation, wind and landscaping for heating, cooling and ventilation. Developers must also show that heating systems for hot tubs and swimming pools are solar when possible, and in all cases, energy efficient.
In addition to this, Santa Cruz eliminated the need to get a building permit for installation of solar energy system installation that are either 1) not visible from a public thoroughfare or 2) have panels that are installed with 12" of the buildings roof.
Santa Clara rents private citizens and businesses solar equipment to heat their swimming pools, process water, and domestic hot water. The solar components (solar collectors, controls and storage tanks) are owned and maintained by the city; renters pay an initial installation fee and a monthly utility fee that varies according to the size of the installation. Renters keep any money saved in energy bills.
Berkeley has developed a new program that will help thousands of its residents generate solar power without having to put money up front. The City hopes to provide financing for residents and businesses who cannot afford the up-front costs of installing solar PV panels. This is how the program would work:
The City Council will vote in the coming weeks on this plan for the city to finance the cost of solar panels for property owners who agree to pay it back with a 20-year assessment on their property.
Applicable Sectors: Commercial, residential
Santa Monica has designed the Solar Santa Monica program to make it easier for homeowners and local businesses to improve the efficiency of their buildings and install solar energy systems. Through the Solar Santa Monica program, homes and businesses will first have a trained member of the Solar Santa Monica team conduct an on-site energy assessment to see how the home or business can save energy in the most cost effective way. This assessment includes a cost-benefit analysis of potential energy-saving measures. The homeowner can then decide which energy improvements they want to make, and Solar Santa Monica will put them in touch with one of their program-approved providers to make the improvements.
After all of the desired energy improvements have been addressed, the provider will provide a bid to the homeowner for a solar installation. If the homeowner decides to go forward with a solar installation, Solar Santa Monica will direct them to one of their program-approved lending institutions to provide financing for the installation. A down payment may be required, but will not exceed $1,000.
In 1975, the City of Santa Clara established the nation's first municipal solar utility. Under the Solar Water Heating Program, the City supplies, installs and maintains solar water heating systems for residents and businesses within Santa Clara through its Water & Sewer Utilities Department. In addition, the city has also installed solar energy equipment for its own facilities. The Community Recreation Center and the International Swim Center, both in Central Park, use solar-heated water.
Solar equipment is offered by the city for the heating of swimming pools, process water, and domestic hot water. The pieces of hardware (solar collectors, controls and storage tanks) are owned and maintained by the city under a rental agreement. The renter pays an initial installation fee and a monthly utility fee. These amounts vary according to the size of the installation.
For all above installations there is a monthly service charge based on the number of panels. Pool systems are billed a monthly service charge for six billing cycles per year (generally from April to September), although the system is available for use all year.
Chicago, Illinois is part of a public-private partnership focused on advancing the development of the solar energy industry in the Chicago metropolitan area. The Chicago Solar Partnership, which includes the solar design and installation company Spire Solar Chicago and the Pipe Fitters Local 597, provides outreach and education on solar energy and technical assistance to end users. Founded in 2000, the partnership has already worked to install nearly 2 MW of solar power in Chicago, mostly on buildings within city limits.
City of Oakland Ordinance 12327 allows for "Self-Certification for Renewable Energy Production Facilities", waiving current design review requirements for installation. Filling out a simple form available at the City Planning and Zoning Desk streamlines the permit process by exempting qualifying facilities from design review.
Most solar energy systems installations are likely to be able to meet the requirements for using the form and the streamlined process. Wind projects will likely have more difficulty qualifying due to the limited height requirements.
Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Residential. Industrial, nonprofit, schools
The rebate program offered by the Marin County Sustainability Team provides incentives to local residences, businesses and County employees who install solar energy systems. Rebates include $500 for a photovoltaic system, $300 for a solar hot water heater, and $200 for a solar pool heater. To qualify for this rebate, the applicant must live in unincorporated Marin County or be an employee of Marin County. In addition, the applicant must submit an energy efficiency checklist and the systems must meet the minimum qualifications listed on the program website.
Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Residential, Construction, Installer/Contractor
In early 2002, the City of Santa Monica began waiving building permit fees for solar energy systems. They recognized that waiving these fees could act as an incentive to realizing the City's energy goals, and could persuade the public to invest in more efficient systems for their homes and businesses.