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LA opens rooftops for solar energy installations


April 27, 2012

Los Angeles rooftops have potential for generating power under the CLEAN LA Solar program

Los Angeles rooftops have potential for generating power under the CLEAN LA Solar program

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We're used to seeing solar arrays in desert locations, but this initiative is looking to a new frontier for solar energy - the rooftops of Los Angeles. The recent approval of a Feed-in-Tarriff (FiT) rooftop solar program known as CLEAN LA Solar by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power opens up over 12,000 acres of potential rooftop space for solar development.

The program targets the rooftops of local homes, businesses and multi-family buildings within Los Angeles to provide rooftops for the installation and collection of solar power. The FiT initiative means building owners will get paid for the energy generated on the rooftop installations. The program differs from a net metering system, which grants owners a retail credit for the portion of electricity generated.

"Feed-in-Tariff means getting paid for energy you're generating from your rooftop," explained Adam Jacobson from the Los Angeles Business Council. "Net metering turns your meter back so you get a refund."

To create the CLEAN LA Solar initiative, the Los Angeles Business Council created a coalition of roughly 30 non-profit and environmental organizations including CLEAN Coalition, American Lung Association, Tree People and LA Conservation Corps and the Sierra Club.

Over the past three years the coalition has commissioned five studies to support an action for the CLEAN LA Solar program.

The goal of the program is to build the first 150 megawatts of rooftop solar in the next three to four years with the aim of reaching the 600 megawatts granted in the FiT by 2020. The CLEAN LA Solar initiative works alongside a state mandate requiring local utilities to generate 33 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

"The 12,000-plus acres of available rooftop space available for solar could generate as much as 5.5 gigawatts of power Los Angeles," said Jacob Lipa, Los Angeles Business Council Chairman, in a statement. "While getting to a 600 megawatt FiT only takes advantage of a fraction of the total capacity in the city, it's a great start to encourage investment in the city."

While other localities have implemented solar programs, the Los Angeles Business Council says the Los Angeles participation is a significant development. "It's the first large U.S. city," Jacobson said. "Los Angeles Department of Water & Power is the largest municipal utility in the country."

An increase in solar power equipment in Los Angeles will mean more than a clean energy source. The Los Angeles Business Council sponsored a study conducted by UCLA that found that a 600-megawatt FiT could result in 18,000 green jobs. The program could also bring in as much as $2 billion in investment. Businesses themselves will benefit from long-term cost savings, in which they'll realize a new revenue source in the sale of electricity.

Map of the rooftop solar potential of Los Angeles County

While any building with a rooftop is eligible for the CLEAN LA Solar program, the Los Angeles Business Council has its eye on a number of buildings. "As part of our campaign to advocate for this program we've identified the top 10 rooftops in each city council district," said Jacobson.

Many of those viable rooftops aren't in affluent areas. A property study commissioned by the Los Angeles Business Council identified several rooftops with the greatest solar power potential in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Source: Los Angeles Business Council on sustainability, CLEAN LA Solar program

About the Author
Enid Burns Enid began her freelance writing career reviewing video games after spending several hundred dollars upgrading a DOS-based machine to get Syndicate to run. Since then she's added coverage of mobile phones, consumer electronics and online advertising to her writing portfolio. Essentially, she's fascinated by shiny objects and making them light up. All articles by Enid Burns

Solar roofs is not the only answer. A more robust program would be to plant on all flat roofs. You would positivelty control water run off, create a natural cooling effect, absorb Co2 and beautify cities. more rewarding that only harvest electricity


While paving a lot full of weeds to put up a solar collector is stupid, I like roof top solar.


So what is the 'feed in tariff' amount ?


AMAZING! Roof-tops for solar panels!!! Why didn't they think of that before?!


So LA says building owners will be paid to generate solar power, and 12,000 green jobs will be created. Ha ha ha.

Sounds similar to the Government of Ontario (Canada) fantasy about windmill power which turned out to be a black hole sucking up millions of tax dollars per month, no new jobs, very little energy created, and the energy that was created cost 11 times more than regular power sources.


It's good to hear that the air in L.A. is now so smog free as to allow enough sunlight to pass into the city for solar panels to work. I like the idea of adding plants on all flat roofs, too. There is no reason a roof couldn't support both plants and solar panels. Additionally, for taller buildings, a water collection system could collect rain water to fill a tank with, then drain that through through a mini-hydro plant in order to increase power output back to the grid. It's already been proven to work with grey water in skyscrapers.

Gene Jordan

According to the 2011, 2-year review, Ontario's FIT program has already created some 20,000 jobs, attracted over $27 billion in private sector investment, and will provide energy for 1.2 million homes. Maybe robo has some better data, but to me it sure doesn't look like a "fantasy," it looks fantastic.


This is a noble concept, except for the fact that LA is rife with crime. My family's 70 year old business located in south central LA has had the copper stolen out of the ac units twice (some locked cages ended the problem). Exactly how are you supposed to safeguard solar panels from theft and graffiti?

Chris Tetzlaff
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