Palmdale Adding Lots of Urban Solar

Palmdale's getting more solar in convenient public places. | Photo: Selbe B/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Los Angeles County desert community of Palmdale is adding urban solar in a big way. The city announced Monday that it's building almost a megawatt of solar generating capacity in town to help meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets.

Under the terms of a 20-year agreement, Palmdale will buy power from solar panels built on shade structures on three city-owned sites. The solar company Constellation will finance, build, and operate the solar arrays, selling the power generated to the city.

The new solar installations, which will amount to 976 kilowatts of capacity, will top shade structures at Palmdale's Civic Center, DryTown Water Park and Marie Kerr Park. The city says the structures have been designed to blend in with the overall "look and feel" of the city's public architecture.

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"We are very proud of what this project is going to accomplish," said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford. "It not only will save the taxpayer money, but it will help the city meet its Greenhouse Gas reduction requirements and goals, and allow us to keep our Renewable Energy Credits for future use. We're also proud that we took the extra steps to make these structures more aesthetically appealing by adding color and architectural features so that they are visually compatible with their surroundings."

Palmdale's already a solar leader among California cities: as of this week, the Antelope Valley city ranks sixth in terms of total distributed solar power generating capacity in the California Solar Statistics tally, with 18 megawatts installed. (About five megawatts of that total is on residential rooftops.) Despite its respectable sixth-place standing, the city has plenty of room for solar growth: its neighbor Lancaster, which holds fifth place, has about nine megawatts more solar installed than Palmdale.

For those wondering about the top four solar cities in the state according to California Solar Statistics: San Jose ranks first in capacity within the city limits, at 58.9 megawatts, followed by San Diego (57.2 megawatts), Bakersfield (33 megawatts), and Fresno (30.9 megawatts.) Los Angeles is largely unrepresented in the California Solar Statistics site's rankings: the site mainly tracks solar panels feeding power to investor-owned utilities, and most of Los Angeles is served by a public utility. Were LA's stats included, every other city in the ranking would move down a notch.

So Palmdale's got a ways to go to make number one, but this new agreement to solarize city public spaces is a great step: generating power while giving locals a place to sit in the shade. The panels are slated to come online in the middle of this year.

For the record: this article has been updated to clarify Los angeles' standing among California's solar cities.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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