One of the great success stories of the renewable energy industry is taking place one hour north of Los Angeles in California's Antelope Valley, where the City of Lancaster has made the adoption of solar energy one of its highest municipal priorities. A New York Times article published today details the stunning growth of the solar industry in a small city not known for its sizable environmentalist demographic.
R. Rex Parris, a lawyer and the mayor of Lancaster, has been making a serious push to make the California community the "center of the universe" when it comes to solar energy production. Additionally, Parris wants Lancaster to be the first city to produce more solar energy that it consumes. The city is on track to meet that goal as the city council recently made changes to Lancaster's zoning codes, requiring all new homes to be built with solar panels factored into the design.
This zoning change has led to an acceleration of solar panel construction in the city. Lancaster currently produces a total of 39 megawatts of solar energy, with another 50 megawatts of capacity under construction. Solar power has been integrated into the school system, which produces 7.5 megawatts of solar energy, along with the 8 megawatts produced by local high schools and a community college.
According to Greentech Media, a website that follows the green technology sector, the new city zoning rules will require that one to 1.5 kilowatts of energy be produced for every residence over 7,000 square feet.
The benefits of solar energy for consumers are numerous. Solar power leaves homeowners less exposed to the volatility of fossil fuel prices, improves air quality and, in some cases, a resident can send energy they do not use back to the power grid in exchange for renewable energy credits, which can be sold to utilities looking to meet their renewable energy quotas.