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On-Site Solar

Identify and Prioritize Goals for Your On-Site Solar Project

As previously stated in the “Understand the Current Situation” in the “Getting Started” section, there may be multiple motivations for prioritizing on-site solar PV. Understanding the priorities of each city department and how on-site solar may help achieve those objectives can help gain greater overall buy-in when developing your on-site goals. Aligning on these motivations will also help short-list potential sites and establish concrete objectives. Here are a few potential impact metrics that address common motivations for on-site solar:

  • Visibility and Educational Opportunities

    Cities can lead by example by prioritizing solar at highly visible municipal sites or where there are educational opportunities (e.g., schools, libraries). This helps accelerate community-wide solar adoption, as solar PV adoption has shown to be contagious when visible. An example goal: Prioritize highly visible sites, or sites where there are educational opportunities, so that at least 25% of on-site solar sites incorporate at least one of those attributes.

  • Local Jobs and Economic Development

    On-site solar is especially advantageous for spurring local job creation, as an average of 14 solar jobs are created per $1 million invested, compared with 5-7 for investments in oil, natural gas, and coal. This motivation may lead to you prioritizing larger projects and more ambitious local solar capacity goals, as well as requiring local business provisions in the RFP. An example goal: Create at least 100 local solar jobs by investing in local solar projects worth $7 million.

  • Operational Costs

    Since on-site solar directly reduces a site’s consumption of grid-supplied electricity, it has the potential to generate attractive economic returns at sites subject to higher electricity rates. Long-term fixed contracts can also hedge against future price fluctuations and the historical trend of average U.S. commercial electricity rates increasing by 2% per year. If economics are prioritized, the focus may shift to sites with higher marginal electricity rates or larger projects with greater economies of scale, rather than smaller but more visible sites. An example goal: On-site solar projects must meet an internal rate of return (IRR) of at least 7%.

  • Renewable Energy

    For cities with aggressive renewable energy goals, municipal on-site solar offers cities direct control over making significant progress toward achieving their goals. Municipal rooftops alone can typically provide 10–20% of all municipal load (including buildings, streetlights, pumping stations, and more). This could also lead to prioritization of larger projects over smaller but potentially more visible ones. An example goal: Install at least 50 megawatts (MW) of (or cover 10% of municipal electricity usage with) on-site solar PV by 2025.

  • Resilience

    Natural disasters are occurring nearly five times as often as in the 1970s. At the same time, battery costs have come down significantly, leading to cost-effective resilient solar + storage systems offering multiple value propositions. If resilience is a prime motivation, sites such as emergency services facilities or community centers may be prioritized over sites with more visibility or solar resource potential. An example goal: Install resilient solar to provide backup power to critical loads at the top five critical city facilities.

Outcome

  • Form an on-site solar team
  • Identify the internal and external stakeholders to consult through the process
  • Prioritize and quantify on-site goals
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