Clean Power

Published on April 30th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales


How LA Can Harness Solar Energy To Create Jobs & Prosperity

April 30th, 2014 by  

Originally published on the ECOreport.

Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains – Nserrano, CC By 3.0, en wikipedia

Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains
Image Credit: Nserrano, CC BY 3.0 license

Los Angeles has the potential to become the largest per capita provider of rooftop solar in California. Over 40% of the areas where solar could be installed are also in need of significant socioeconomic and environmental investment. A new report from the LABC Institute discusses how this can be done. The first step would be to scale up the FiT program from its current 100 MW to 600 MW.

This is halfway to the 1,200 MW that the city hopes to have installed by 2020, in order to achieve its part in California’s goal to obtain 1/3 of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“The CLEAN LA Solar FIT program is paving the way to secure our city’s future as a statewide and national leader in solar production, helping our environment and economy alike,” Mayor Garcetti said.

Environment California, Mayor Eric Garcetti, numerous politicians, non-profits, and businesses (including SolarCity, Sunrun, and Sungevity) all support this goal.

Prior studies commissioned by the LABC Institute have shown that Los Angeles has 10,000 acres of rooftop solar potential, which could support a far larger FIT than is being discussed.

The report suggests “that the program should encourage solar job creation in high-need areas, and that disadvantaged worker credits and local business preferences be built into the program.” There are already a number of local and student programs in low-income areas in the San Fernando Valley, Downtown, and in East Los Angeles. Some target disadvantaged and at-risk youth, including Homeboy Industries’ Solar Installation Training and Certification Program, which works with ex-offenders and former gang members, and the Los Angeles Conversation Corps’ Green Job Training Program, which serves low-income youth.

Solar installation on roof of Oxnard Plaza Apartments- LADWP photo (Click on picture to expand photo, or on this link to access article about Oxnard plaza

Solar installation on roof of Oxnard Plaza Apartments
Image Credit: LADWP photo (Read more about the Oxnard plaza installation.)

“An increasing body of research, including from organizations such as the Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund, is showing that economic growth strategies that advance social equity can also result in long- term, economic growth.”

The authors also call for further streamlining of the permitting process. They recommend that Mayor Garcetti’s online permit processing, for small residential solar projects, be followed up on. This will help end the long wait times in the application process.

At the moment, 109 (or 43%) of Los Angeles’ FIT projects are “in-progress” and 20 are near completion. Another 126 projects (or 49%) are on hold and not initially selected for development. To date, 21 projects (or 8%) have been cancelled.

“It’s very encouraging to see that FIT applications are rolling in from across the city, particularly low-income neighborhoods where the environmental and economic benefits are so important,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC PERE and one of the report’s authors.

This appears to have had some impact in the city’s construction industry. Unemployment has dropped from 19%, a few years ago, to 13.5% today.

There are currently more than 300 solar firms employing close to 11,000 people in southern California.

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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • Doug

    The county of LA could help by not allowing new point pollution source gas turbine power plants as replacements to the once-through power plants that are now banned. One example is the proposed AES power plant replacement in on the Redondo Beach waterfront. There are two others in the area as well.

    In fairness to AES, I attached a link to the “pro-power plant” AES website, although I am opposed to its construction. With enough renewable generation and better TOU pricing, this plant is unnecessary.

  • spec9

    Nice picture of LA. You’d never be able to see the mountains like that in the 80’s . . . too much smog back then. We have made progress.

    • Doug

      That picture was taken on a rare day. We still have a long way to go. Although I live west of the pollution, when the wind blows with an onshore breeze, the ocean horizon turns brown – ruining not only our air quality, but also our wonderful ocean views.

  • Kyle Field

    Living in the greater LA area (very near the pictured Oxnard installation, actually), I’m very curious about the process for starting up a small (100-200 kw system) utility installation or community solar generation field. Does anyone have information about what the process is for starting one of these up and what the financials look like? I’m all about promoting solar and the responsible thing seems to be taking the initiative and scaling that up from my current residential installation to something more substantial that can make a larger impact on “my” local power grid.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I just googled “community solar”. There’s a NREL guide. And lots of links to various programs. I’d just start checking web sites and then emailing when you feel you’ve found the best fit.

  • JamesWimberley

    It’s impossible for 129 projects in a tiny pilot FIT scheme to have had a significant statistical impact already on unemployment in a city the size of LA. There’s potential, sure, but only if it’s scaled up dramatically.

    • Matt

      Current FiT program is max’ed at 100 MW, that is under 10% of 2020 goal for LA.

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