Renewable Energy Exporting Local Communities

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John Robb:

"There's a small city in California called Lancaster. They've got a dynamic mayor that's geared up to do something to reverse his community's slide into economic oblivion (a trend across the US and Europe).

To do that, he's turning Lancaster into an energy exporter. They are installing inexpensive solar panel systems all over the city. Further, every new home built must produce at least a kW of solar power.

They didn't do this overnight. The effort started three years ago with some pilot projects -- city hall, churches, and local businesses -- that yielded experience and good results.

The most recent project was the installation of over 32,000 panels on the city's 25 schools. Together they generate 7.5 megawatts of power.

To drive down costs, the city created a municipal power company called the Lancaster Power Authority. A municipal utility allows the city to negotiate aggressively with solar equipment vendors and service providers.

The utility also serves as a new business incubator to help entrepreneurs with innovative ways to generate solar power get the support and help they need to prototype it.

The way things are going right now, Lancaster will soon be sell more electricity to neighbors than it uses. Also, given the scale involved, I suspect Lancaster will be able to extract premium pricing as a power producer long term (solar power can sell at a premium price many times what it retails for when it coincides with peak usage periods)." (