News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

L.A. Makes Solar Rooftop Program 10 Times Bigger

Another step toward's L.A.'s solar future | Photo: Irene Tong/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a plan Friday to buy 100 megawatts of solar power from property owners throughout the city of Los Angeles.

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The new Clean LA Solar program, an expansion of a previous 10-megawatt pilot feed-in tariff (FiT) program operated by DWP, is expected to create about 4,500 jobs in Los Angeles as property owners install solar panels and sell power to DWP for about 17 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Under the new FiT program, which will be the largest such program in a U.S. city, DWP will offer 20 megawatts' worth of new long-term power purchase contracts to qualifying property owners every six months, starting in February. Systems must be at least 30 kilowatts in capacity to qualify.

"Instead of buying power from big coal producers, we will buy it from L.A. businesses and residents powered by the sun," said Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti. "The solar FiT program will help L.A. wean itself from burning coal for its power needs and create good paying jobs in the process."

"Today's vote represents a pivotal point for Los Angeles, as our city continues to take groundbreaking steps to position itself as a national leader in the booming clean energy economy," said the Sierra Club's Evan Gillespie. "In the 21st century, it is simply unacceptable for 40 percent of L.A.'s energy to come from aging out-of-state polluting coal-fired power plants. Local renewable energy generation like the 'CLEAN LA Solar' program will enable our city to replace the dirty Navajo Generating Station coal plant in Arizona."

LADWP can deliver around 7,200 megawatts of power to its customers, meaning that a 100-megawatt FiT, when fully subscribed, will account for less than 1.4 percent of the utility's generating capacity. With an eye toward making the city's admittedly experimental FiT a much greater contributor to DWP's power portfolio, the group Environment California is pushing for a much-expanded FiT, which along with other incentives and programs would eventually encompass at least 1,200 megawatts of rooftop solar by 2020. "Sunny Los Angeles should have solar power on every warehouse, apartment complex, parking lot and school," said Environment California's Michelle Kinman. "The commitment to 100 MW of rooftop solar power is a giant step towards a clean energy future for Los Angeles."

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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