Our reliance on fossil fuels is not sustainable. Our best path to renewables includes solar energy – and the City of Cleveland has launched two innovative initiatives to explore its feasibility. As Mayor, I will build upon the work that I have done to date as Council President and make solar energy a viable option for Cleveland.

Cleveland Initiatives

To advance Cleveland’s aspiration to be a “Green City on a Blue Lake,” in May 2019, I commissioned an extensive “solar site assessment” for Cleveland.

The primary objective of this study was to survey a sizable quantity of municipal-owned properties and develop target criteria that would be utilized to identify sites for prospective free-standing solar installations – emphasizing the use of solar carports and fixed ground-mounted solar arrays. It was intended as a next step in the City’s investment in energy in general and solar energy in particular.

At this time, the Jackson Administration is reviewing proposals from contractors that would identify prospective rooftop solar installations.

The City Council study first evaluated the feasibility of solar-power installations on multiple sites across the City. Initially, the project team inventoried 222 possible sites – eventually narrowing the focus to 20 of the most promising. Next, it created detailed models of possible carport and ground-mounted solar arrays on City-owned properties.

The study then calculated the likely annual daylight for each site, the amount of electricity each array would produce, and the levelized cost of energy.

The project team’s initial calculations suggest that there is adequate annual daylight to generate enough electricity at viable rates to conduct further investigations of the installations of free-standing solar arrays.

As such, this study concludes what is expected to be a first step in the eventual development of solar energy in Cleveland with subsequent activities – including, but not limited to, interconnections and financing – to be determined.

Background

Climate change is often viewed as a national or international problem. But I believe that it is also a local problem. As the issue seems to be perpetually stalled at the national level, local communities need to lead in the areas of climate change and renewable energy.

Today, most of our energy comes from fossil fuels – with most of our electricity being generated by coal. This is not sustainable. Solar power is emerging as a cost-effective renewable alternative to coal. Because Cleveland owns and operates an electric utility and is a large consumer of electricity, we have an obligation to ensure that Cleveland and Cleveland Public Power (CPP) take aggressive actions to reduce the amount of carbon emitted.

Advantages of Solar Energy

There are numerous advantages to renewable solar energy. Since sunlight is “free,” solar energy reduces electricity bills – with the eventual reduced monthly payment only limited by the cost to install the delivery system. Solar energy also includes the possibility of receiving payments for surplus energy that may be exported back to the grid through a newer technology called “net metering.”

Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes, generating electricity, and producing heat. It can be used to produce electricity in areas without access to the energy grid, to distill water in regions with limited water supplies, and to power satellites in space. Solar energy can also be integrated into building materials, such as roof shingles, wall claddings and windows.

In addition, solar energy systems are typically low maintenance – requiring minimal annual cleaning, with no moving parts, and little wear and tear. System manufacturers usually offer 20 to 25-year warranties.

And solar energy technology is constantly advancing. Improvements will intensify in the future. Innovations in quantum physics and nanotechnology may eventually be able to dramatically increase the electrical capacity of the solar power systems.

Overcoming barriers to solar energy

Solar energy’s advantages are substantial the perceived disadvantages are being addressed as the technology evolves. For example, the initial cost of purchasing a solar system is fairly high, but technology improvements and widespread adoption will continue to decrease the initial costs. Advancements in solar energy storage are addressing both the cost of storage and a drop in solar energy available on cloud days. Finally, while solar energy requires more space than other energy solutions, advances in more efficient materials and technologies is making this issue is becoming more manageable.

Other Cities

While cities comprise 2% of the world’s land mass, they account for most of the world’s energy use. Therefore, habitat and renewable energy are, according to a recent report by Deloitte,

Increasingly inseparable. As cities vie to attract growing businesses, talent, and innovation in an increasingly global competition, solar and wind power have become key for many in achieving their smart city goals.

In a 2020 report, Environment America (EA) reported that “almost 90 percent of the 57 cities surveyed… more than doubled their installed PV capacity from 2013 to 2019.”

More recently in the Cincinnati area, leaders broke ground on the largest municipally-led solar array project in the country on nearly 900 acres about 40 miles east of the city – with completion due in December. According to Ideastream,

The array will generate about 75 megawatts per year, or about 18% of the city’s total energy needs. It’s enough energy to power the entire city government. Officials estimate the array will save taxpayers $1.8 million over the next two decades.” The project will create about 160 jobs – mostly for electrical workers, whose salary will be at a rate of about $62,000 per year.