Manchester, N.H.- Manchester is stuck in the middle of the pack when it comes to solar, ranking 31st out of 64 major U.S. cities for solar installed per person, according to a new analysis. Manchester could improve its ranking by adopting a bold goal for solar power installations, advocates said today.
“With both the Clean Power Plan and more forward-thinking policies like community solar programs,” said Sharon Solomon, Global Warming Solutions Organizer with Environment New Hampshire, “Manchester could really start to shine when it comes to solar power.”
“We do know as the report indicates that state policies are very important,” said State Representative Robert Backus (Manchester Ward 12).
In the Northeast, Newark and Burlington topped the list for most solar power per capita in the Environment New Hampshire Research & Policy Center analysis, Shining Cities 2016: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America.
Plummeting costs, increasing public concern over global warming, technological innovation and the Clean Power Plan have all played a role in spurring the growth of solar energy, which last year was enough to power 5.4 million American homes.
The report found cities at the vanguard of the nation’s solar boom, with the top 20 solar cities – representing just 0.1 percent of U.S. land area – accounting for 6 percent of U.S. solar photovoltaic capacity at the end of 2015.
As population centers, cities are home to ample rooftop space and large electricity markets. Through power purchase agreements, promoting community solar programs, and installing solar on government property, city governments can play a leading role in developing solar energy.
“Its very exciting to see the extent to which solar has come to New Hampshire,” said Representative Backus.“It is an important part of meeting our state policy goal of 25 percent renewables by the year 2025- probably the most important part. We need to continue to have strong state support.”
According to researchers who examined solar power installations in 64 American cities in nearly every state, Manchester had enough solar capacity at the end of last year to power about 320 homes, but the state is ready to go further.“ IBEW 490 has a large skilled labor force ready and over a quarter of these skilled electricians have already worked or are currently working on such solar projects” said IBEW Local 490 Business Manager Denis Beaudoin. “Our skilled labor force is trained, ready and available.”
While solar power is growing in New Hampshire and throughout the nation, utility companies are campaigning intensely to increase fees for rooftop solar, which they see as a direct threat to their business model.
“New Hampshire has high electricity rates and an ample solar resource,” stated John Lawrence, Design Specialist at ReVision Energy. “Clean, distributed energy is the natural choice in terms of economic viability, fossil fuel emission reduction and adding value to the centralized electric grid.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has also stalled the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration initiative to cap carbon pollution from power plants and provide incentives for clean energy like solar.
Environment New Hampshire and other advocates urged cities to move forward with solar power development in spite of these attacks.
“Cities have been at the forefront of environmental change for decades,” said Solomon. “And there’s no reason for them to stop now. The polluters can’t change the fact that solar power makes sense for our climate, our health, and our wallets.”
Environment New Hampshire Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.