Milwaukee – Today, Wisconsin Environment was joined at [X solar home in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee] by Alderman Nik Kovac, Milwaukee Shines, and [X solar homeowner], to release a new report, “Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution.” The report provides a first-of-its-kind comparative look at the growth of solar power in major American cities.
“Cities are the focal point of this solar energy revolution and that has Milwaukee looking on the bright side,” said Megan Severson, State Advocate, with Wisconsin Environment.
The report found that there is more than 200 times as much solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed in the U.S. today compared to 2002, much of that in America’s cities. The top 20 cities account for 7 percent of the installed photovoltaic solar, while occupying only 0.1 percent of the land area.
“Solar power is booming across the country and cities are at the forefront,” said Severson. “The progress we are seeing here and around the country should give us the confidence we can do more.”
With the cost of solar coming down, there’s growing awareness of solar power as a mainstream energy solution with widespread benefits for our health, our economy and the environment.
“As a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs, solar energy helps us meet our city’s environmental and economic goals,” said Alderman Nik Kovac. “I’m looking forward to continued progress.”
The report highlighted the benefits of solar energy, including:
Solar energy avoids pollution—Pollution-free energy from the sun reduces air pollution that contributes to urban smog and global warming. It also helps save the massive amount of water that’s normally consumed during the cooling of fossil-fuel-burning power plants.
Solar energy protects consumers— Since solar has no fuel costs, it can protect us from the rising cost of fossil fuels.
Solar energy helps the economy— According to a recent report from the Solar Foundation, Wisconsin has 1,800 solar jobs, growing by 80% since last year.
The top 20 solar cities in this report have more solar power within their city limits than was installed in the entire U.S. just five years ago.
“Solar is clean, its local, and it’s a symbol of the direction Milwaukee is headed,” said Amy Heart, Milwaukee’s Solar Program Coordinator. “By ramping up solar, we can reduce pollution, while creating local jobs in our communities.”
Steve Jerbi, the pastor for All Peoples Church in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, said that the Milwaukee Shines solar program helped him to install solar panels on his home. “Like a lot of folks, my wife and I want to care for the environment for today and for our future and our daughters' future,” said Jerbi. “Thanks to the Milwaukee Shines program we were able to participate in the city's first group buy program.”
The report pointed to policies that encourage investment in solar PV installations, which have been adopted by local leaders in solar cities::
- City leaders can set ambitious and achievable goals and citizens and businesses can work with local governments to meet them. Cities can lead by example by putting solar on public buildings such as the Milwaukee Central Library and several Milwaukee fire stations.
- Cities can adopt policies to advance solar power in their communities, such as Milwaukee’s low interest loan program and solar-friendly zoning and building codes. Cities can also facilitate programs that use bulk purchasing and educational campaigns to help neighbors “go solar” together; like Milwaukee Shine’s Solar Group Buy Program. (http://www.MilwaukeeShines.com)
- City leaders can work with state governments to ensure that they have strong programs to expand solar, including renewable energy standards, solar carve-outs or feed-in tariffs, net metering and community solar programs.
- City leaders can also demand a strong partnership with the federal government to ensure that federal incentives such as tax credits are continued. And, that federal programs, such as the Solar America’s Cities and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant programs continue to provide support and technical assistance to cities seeking to expand solar.
“We’ve made progress here in Milwaukee. But we’ve just begun,” said Severson. “By committing to bold goals and putting strong policies in place, we can make Milwaukee shine as a national leader and reap the environmental and economic benefits of the solar revolution.”
Wisconsin Environment is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy group working for clean air, clean water and open spaces. www.WisconsinEnvironment.org