Ask Renewable Rayna: How does Solar Energy Help Municipalities?



Given the extensive range of government facilities and services, solar is an excellent opportunity for cities to adopt renewable energy. Powering schools, libraries, municipal office buildings, and maintenance facilities requires a significant amount of electricity.

For a conventional local government, energy costs are traditionally the second largest budget item. As a consequence, saving money on electricity would result in a significant reduction in operating costs. Solar will offset municipal utility loads during the day and provide net-metered electricity for street lights at night, lowering their monthly electric bills. This results in substantial cost savings.

Going solar can help municipalities in a variety of ways. Here are a few highlights:



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Cost savings: Solar is now less costly than buying electricity from the grid in most parts of the world. Since 2010, solar costs have fallen significantly – by more than 60% – and are expected to drop another 35% by 2022. Cities can reduce their energy bills by installing solar panels and producing their own electricity. Such savings can be reinvested elsewhere in city budgets. Furthermore, by spending less on energy bills, municipalities can keep more of their money in their city. Furthermore, under a PPA, cities and governments will lock in their power rate for the next 25 years, removing one variable while preparing annual budgets. Job Creation: Today, solar employs as many Americans as natural gas. Solar jobs range from installation to manufacturing to sales. Municipalities may support solar job creation in their city by installing solar on one or more buildings. Local economic development: Municipalities will help jump-start the local clean energy industry by building solar systems. You can use your community outreach resources to educate constituents about renewable energy systems as they are installed and increasing throughout your local customer base. Municipalities can create more green energy jobs in their cities by working with local installers. Also, solar construction should be combined with improvements to municipal solar permitting procedures. This will demonstrate to the rest of your community, and the state, that the municipality is serious about growing the local green energy economy. Sustainability Commitments: Although the monetary benefits of solar are significant for governments and communities, there are also global warming issues and growing national support for net-zero emissions policies to consider. Installing solar will help the municipality achieve its sustainability goals by reducing its reliance on fossil-fuel-powered electricity and offsetting its carbon footprint.



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Resilience: As the cost of battery technology falls, many municipalities are considering solar plus storage for use during power outages.



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When considering solar, municipalities have two ownership models to choose from: direct ownership and third-party ownership. Under direct ownership, the municipality pays for and owns all solar PV equipment. It earns the city the maximum monetary value of the electricity produced by its panels. When a separate company owns the solar panels installed for cities and governments under third-party ownership, and the municipality pays the business only for the electricity generated by the panels. Municipalities under third-party ownership pay two separate electric bills: one to the power company and one to the third-party solar owner.



Pulaski County Judge Barry H
Pulaski County Judge Barry H


Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde – Flips the Switch on Solar Power


A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is the most common third-party contract. With contract periods of up to 25 years and the ability to purchase or renew the system afterwards, a PPA provides the municipality with immediate savings without the initial expense of direct buying or the ongoing costs of running a solar system. A solar PPA also enables governments and counties to benefit from federal tax breaks that would otherwise be inaccessible because they do not own the system.

Municipalities thinking about going solar should keep the following in mind:

Exemption from paying taxes: Municipalities are ineligible to receive the federal tax credit for solar projects because they often do not pay taxes. Municipalities, on the other hand, who build systems with the help of solar financiers or third parties will monetize the tax credit on their behalf.

Long-term project timeframes: Since a municipality’s solar installation process involves several agencies, stakeholders, and staff teams, the installation period would be longer than for an individual house. It is important for the municipal project to coordinate with other municipal offices and workers about the installation early on in order to prevent delays later on. Bringing environmental, facilities, permitting, communications, and education departments together at the start of the solar planning process would help streamline the work process and improve collaboration in all municipal offices.

In conclusion, though other options, such as wind, exist, solar is the clear environmental winner due to its ease of installation, long-lasting equipment, and reliance on few moving parts. Rather than buying carbon offsets or other types of fossil fuel reduction certificates, building a solar array sends a clear message to residents and voters that their municipality is actively investing in the future.



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