Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made it his mission to make L.A. “the greenest big city in America,” but the L.A. Times is reporting that when it comes to solar developments, the city is falling way behind its neighboring cities in California.
L.A. is a prime location for rooftop solar developments because of the consistently sunny conditions and the fact that there’s no need for expensive power distribution systems to bring the clean energy from desert solar facilities or outlying wind farms.
But a statewide analysis released by Environment California said that, when considering per-capita solar development, Northern California actually has more solar than L.A. while San Diego also has more solar, even though it has only a third of L.A.’s population.
Local L.A. business owners told the Times that their experience with installing in the city has been more trouble than its worth in some scenarios. Locals claim that it’s an expensive, frustrating installation process that suffers from bad service and communication at every turn. Many point to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) as a source of delay, which the Times says has “long regarded rooftop solar power as an annoying stepchild.”
The DWP and City Council claims this will no longer be the case as they joined forces recently to approve a “feed-in tariff” program to accelerate solar development in the area. The program will pay residents and businesses for any power they generate–and sell to the city–with their solar energy systems. Excess energy will be sold to the DWP for distribution in L.A. at large.
The City Council believes this will encourage business owners to install solar electric systems on their properties, since it improves their return-on-investment and gives them the opportunity to generate a steady stream of income from the system.
But a potential sticking point could be the fact that the program is limited to only 10 megawatts, at least at this point in time. Critics of the program say that will encourage smaller systems with less than they might otherwise contribute, given the favorable conditions for solar in L.A.