Walking on Sunshine: Atlanta launches first community based solar program

By Jordan Johnson

Did you know Atlanta experiences more sunlight annually than Germany, the world leader in solar power generation? Residing in the middle of the Southeastern states, the sun shines differently in the State of Georgia. It’s always blaring down on you at any given moment with no warning; rude and robust. But, what if we took the uncomfortable 90 to 100-degree weather and used it for good? Alternative Energy is not just for the tree hugging hippies anymore. Atlanta has untapped solar potential that many are now using as a renewable energy source.

April 12 marked the official launch of Solarize Atlanta, a community-based photovoltaic (PV) group-purchasing solar program for City of Atlanta residents. Solarize Atlanta is making access to solar easy and affordable to all communities with a 20 to 30 percent average savings rate. Think of it as going to your local wholesale store and taking advantage of bulk pricing, but for solar. The more people who sign up, the less the price will be! This is the fifth Community Solarize program to launch in Georgia, but with 410 program participants signed up to date, organizers hope it will be the largest. The program has a target goal of installing 200 plus new solar roofs in Atlanta and establishing a solar roof in every neighborhood.

The Solarize Atlanta Coalition is being led by several entities including Central Atlanta Progress, City of Refuge, Environment Georgia, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, Livable Buckhead, the Sierra Club, Southface, and the US Green Building Council (USBC). The Mayor’s Office of Resilience has been an active participant in the Executive Committee meetings and working groups to partner on these efforts.

Under the Solarize Atlanta program, participants:

  • Have access to lower prices for solar panels through bulk purchasing – prices go down as more participants sign up for Solarize
  • Receive free solar site assessments
  • Receive information about energy efficiency measures that can make properties more efficient and thermally comfortable
  • Work with pre-selected solar panel installers chosen by the community
  • Benefit from knowing their property will enjoy a level of resilience if/when faced with inclement weather, storms, other events that cause the electrical grid to “go down”
  • Are helping the environment by using clean energy, rather than energy generated by oil or coal
  • Gain control of monthly electricity bills by generating their own energy

In addition to Solarize Atlanta, the City of Atlanta also recently kicked off our Solar + Energy Efficiency program at the CT Martin Recreation Center. Both programs are financed through contracts paid over a period of time and are financed from the savings in energy costs. The Solar Atlanta Program will install cost-effective solar panels on 24 municipal buildings, primarily fire stations and recreation centers through a public-private partnership with Cherry Street Energy and Radiance Solar, two Georgia based companies that provide quality, green jobs to local residents. The Atlanta solar program will displace a significant percentage of energy usage at the city facilities with clean, renewable energy from the sun. Both efforts were spearheaded by the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience in partnership with the City’s Office of Enterprise Assets Management, Department of Watershed Management, Department of Aviation, Department of Public Works, Fire Department, and Department of Parks and Recreation.

Mayor Bottoms and Councilmember Andrea Boone commemorated the launch of the Solar Atlanta Program & Energy Savings Performance Contracting with a solar panel community demonstration. The C.T. Martin Recreation Center is the first building to implement both energy efficiency retrofits and solar PV installations. The solar panels are expected to be complete in the next few weeks. Community members had the opportunity to preview samples of solar panels, sign up for the Solarize Atlanta program, and take part in activities concerning energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is paramount to a clean energy future for Atlanta. Not only is it better for the environment but energy efficiency creates jobs and brings revenue into the city. The Atlanta metro area has 2,910 solar jobs as of 2017, an increase of 505 jobs from 2016. Statewide, Georgia has 4,310 solar jobs and ranks 15th in the nation for the number of solar workers.

If you would like to ensure your future is bright; residential, non-profit, and commercial roof owners can go to solarizeatl.com to sign-up.

Jordan Johnson is the Communications Manager for the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience.

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