Study Touts Rooftop Solar Program

Rooftops are becoming valuable real estate.

In the Inland Valley of Southern California, massive warehouses are doubling as energy generators. Now, business and real estate leaders just to the west in Los Angeles say the seemingly wasted space atop apartment complexes could help meet renewable-energy goals, cut the city's carbon footprint, create jobs and save tenants and landlords money.

In a fascinating report, a group of leaders from the city of Los Angeles, banking industry, affordable housing and business suggests a comprehensive program and feed-in tariff to put solar panels on flat rooftops could create enough power to supply 8% of the city's needs, while slashing utility bills and generating up to 4,500 direct and indirect jobs.

Here is a related story in smartplanet.

"There is a tremendous capacity for multifamily housing to contribute to a broader energy program," the report states. It calls multifamily housing, "The second-most cost-effective market in the city after commercial and industrial for solar."

The program would allow businesses, property owners and non-profits to sell the power back to the local utility. Participants would receive a payment from the utility for each kilowatt hour of power fed back to the grid. The report estimates 4,000 apartment buildings with roofs large enough and flat enough to accommodate such a project.

The Los Angeles report reinforces the work of Al Weinrub, who penned an earlier study of rooftop solar and decentralized power. In it, he says businesses with large rooftops or parking lots can become small power companies that feed electricity into the grid.

One of the cool aspects of this is that the structures are already connected to the power grid and have an existing footprint, so no large-scale arrays need to occupy expanses of land and the environmental review process is minimized.

Of course, none of this comes easy, and there are barriers.

Chief among them is that local solar incentives are declining and Los Angeles does not yet have a feed-in tariff program in place. The benefit to tenants also is uncertain, although property owners who wish to join could be required to participate in energy-efficiency programs that lead to rebates or reduced utility costs for tenants.

Still, the two studies offer a tantalizing look at what could be the future of California if Gov. Brown can accomplish his green-jobs program, which calls for, among other things, more rooftop solar.

Photo of Southern California Edison's rooftop solar program by