When you hear the word “farm”, the city of Los Angeles probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, a recent move by L.A. city leaders has opened up 12,000 acres of prime real estate in the City of the Angels. Where exactly is all of this land? It’s on rooftops all over L.A. The development will be one of the largest solar panel farms on the planet.
The project, known as Clean L.A. Solar, is led by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Solar. It has been made possible by a feed-in-tariff agreement led by a coalition of 30 environmental and non-profit groups. These include the CLEAN Coalition, Tree People, the Sierra Club, the American Lung Association, and the L.A. Conservation Corps.
A feed-in-tariff (FiT) agreement is a mechanism for encouraging the growth of alternative energy sources. Under its provisions, both individuals and companies are paid for generating electricity through sustainable means. Usual terms include guaranteed grid access, energy purchase prices tied to production costs, and long-term contracts between the city and developers.
Under such a plan, anyone who can install a panel on their rooftop will be able to participate in the new solar panel farms. This holds the promise of bringing much-needed funds to the poorer areas of Los Angeles, as they are the ones with the greatest potential for solar power creation.
The feed-in-tariff model was first proposed in the US by President Carter ‘s administration, as part of the National Energy Act (NEA) signed into law in 1978. One of its provisions requires utilities to purchase power from qualified producers who use alternative methods to create energy.
Currently, over 50 nations across the globe have active feed-in-tariff agreements. Though they fell out of favor in the 1980s and 90s, they have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years, driven largely by the high costs of petroleum.
The Los Angeles plan calls for the installation of enough panels to generate 150 megawatts of electricity within the next four years. By 2020, the goal is to reach the full 600 megawatts granted by the FiT. This is in conjunction with a California state mandate. It requires utility companies to generate at least 33% of their energy from renewable sources by the same year.
“The 12,000-plus acres of rooftop space available for solar could generate as much as 5.5 gigawatts of power for Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles Business Council chairman Jacob Lipa. He also said, “while getting to a 600 megawatt FiT only takes advantage of a fraction of the total capacity in the city, it’s a great start to encourage investment.”
The initiative will be a boost to the area’s economy. A study conducted by UCLA predicts that 18,000 green jobs could result from the plan, as well as revenues from as much as $2 billion in investments. In addition, businesses will enjoy a reduction in their operating costs and a boost in their revenues, both from their efforts to generate power.
The top 10 rooftops for these solar panel farms in each district have already been chosen, according to Adam Jacobson of the L.A. Business Council, who is enthusiastic about the project. “We’re the first large city to implement a solar program,” he said. Los Angeles is the single largest municipal utility in the United States.
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