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White House announces initiative to increase solar access for Americans

July 8, 2015 By Finley Engineering in

American Public Power Association – White House announces initiative to increase solar access for Americans

American Public Power Association – The White House on July 7 announced a new initiative to increase solar access for Americans through community solar projects and an expanded renewable power installation goal of 300 megawatts.

The new initiative targets low- and moderate-income communities and seeks to expand opportunities to join the solar workforce. Doing so will continue a trend of declining solar costs and climbing generation capacity, the White House said.

The community solar market is positioned to be the next big investment arena in the energy industry, according to a recent report from GTM Research, an energy research firm. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory predicted earlier this year that the community solar market could reach 11 gigawatts by 2020 based on data that shows nearly half of U.S. households and businesses are unable to host solar installations. The White House initiative is aimed at unlocking solar access for that group.

“Community solar is a critical tool for bridging the gap between those who can and can’t afford the upfront costs of installing rooftop solar as well as those who, for a wide variety of reasons, may not be able to install solar where they live or work,” said Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association, in an emailed statement. Hamm said in an interview with Public Power Weekly earlier this year that community solar is ideally suited to public power’s business model.

To make solar accessible, the initiative launched a partnership between the departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as solar companies, trade associations, states and local communities.

The initiative set a goal to install 300 MW of renewable power onto federally subsidized housing by 2020 and to make the installation process easier and more transparent. Public and private sector partners, including utilities, have pledged to put in place more than 260 solar installations. Investors have committed more than $520 million, the White House said.

The administration’s new 300-MW goal triples its original goal of 100 MW of renewable power on federally subsidized housing, which was part of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the White House said.

The initiative will address the solar workforce through AmeriCorps funding and solar education and training. Additionally, the White House said, the solar industry has set its own goal to become the most diverse sector in the energy industry by building a more inclusive workforce.

Learn more about community solar in the July-August issue of Public Power magazine, available later this month. Get more information on the White House community solar initiative online or read DOE’s frequently asked questions about shared solar.