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Solar Power Use in the Community

How Communities are Leveraging Solar Power to Boost Sustainability

Images of antiquing, fresh-churned ice cream, and lobster bakes pop up when you typically think of tiny little hamlets along coastal Maine. It may surprise you to learn that in the middle of one such community, Waldoboro, is a multi-acre, 110kW solar array that saves the community over $380,000 in energy costs.

Solar energy is transforming how we build communities. Commercial property once designated for dog parks, landfills, and even new bus stops is slowly being redesigned to integrate innovative energy-efficient resources. In the last decade alone, the use of solar power throughout the United States has grown at an average rate of 22% per year. While some of that growth is residential, municipal development is a powerful prospect.

Reimagining Local Resources

The trick to boosting community investment in solar energy is to think beyond a giant array. Instead of having citizen-led discussions about shadow-casting, reflective concerns, or land usage, teams like Westphal & Company integrate solar panels into the current infrastructure.

In many cases, the rapid advancement of flexible panels that do not distract from treasured architecture potentially saves town budgets hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. These are funds that can be redirected to crucial operations like education, infrastructure, and first responders.

How Cities are Making a Difference

recent 2022 study by the Research & Policy Center at Environment America investigated this demand for community-driven municipal solar energy. The researchers found that the amount of solar power installed in just nine U.S. cities exceeds the total installment in the entire country 10 years ago.

Of the over 56 different U.S. leading cities surveyed, 15 recorded a tenfold increase in solar capacity between 2014 and 2022. Over 34 of those cities installed enough eco-friendly panels to generate over 50 watts per resident.

Don’t think for a second that those cities are all located in areas of the world with endless summer sunlight, like Arizona or Southern California. When you look at the cities with the best community investment for sustainable power, you will find New Orleans, Indianapolis, Denver, and even Washington, D.C., on that list. These are all areas with 3-4 seasons and plenty of cloud coverage.

How Solar Energy Works for Cities

The struggle most of these towns and cities come across is getting community support. While the vast majority of the country wants future development in renewable energy, not everyone is willing to pay the bill for installing it on commercial property.

Luckily, almost every professional installation team has a connection to local, state, and federal resources. Programs are available to help. Organizations like the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy launched federal efforts to lower community investment in solar panel integration through tax-incentivized programs like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).

With the right community board leading the charge, financial resources can be found to invest in these innovative panels. Combined with the skills and equipment from leading teams, these towns can and do experience energy cost savings through materials artfully installed into everyday infrastructure.

An excellent example of one such project is the recent Westphal & Company installation of solar panels on over 11 bus shelters across the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s transit system. Solar modules were attached across the top of the shelters, charging on-site batteries to power bus schedule display screens, which create more efficient transportation resources for commuters with real-time communication.

Final Thoughts

Sustainable power initiatives led by professional teams and passionate community partners are revolutionizing how we view day-to-day resources. When properly installed, solar energy allows towns and cities to drastically lower reliance on traditional grids, lowering monthly expenses and allowing residents to redirect financial resources where they are needed most.

It is exciting to watch the innovative products being developed by solar producers quickly integrated into everything from parking spaces at a ballpark to high-rise apartments in lieu of windows. The future is bright, and the possibilities of cost-saving technologies are even brighter.

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