The Golden State can win with solar-powered lighting for infrastructure

As the most populous state in US, California requires a lot of energy to run. But it actually is one of the lowest states in terms of per capita energy use. The state’s high energy rates, conservation-related mandates, mild weather, and significant environmental movement all help keep energy use in check.

According to the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, which the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues every four years, California ranks second for renewable energy, with 766.1 trillion BTU produced each year.

The state’s renewable energy goals are some of the most aggressive in the US, and those goals grow more impressive all the time. The state was already on target to meet a goal of powering 50 percent of its electricity by renewable sources by 2030, but in September 2018, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that mandates a loftier target. Now, the state must power 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025—and 60 percent by 2030. Eventually, the state will need to use renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower for all its electricity.

Earlier in the spring of 2018, the California Energy Commission also adopted building standards requiring solar photovoltaic systems as of 2020. According to the California Energy Commission, this will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount roughly equivalent to taking 115,000 gas-powered cars off the road.

Efforts in residential development are not the only way the state is working to reduce energy bills. For instance, cities like Los Angeles have long been dedicated to utilizing energy-efficient street lighting. The conversion of 180,000 street lights to LED lighting took the $16 million energy bills and reduced it by over $10 million per year. Norma Isahakian, executive director of LA’s Bureau of Street Lighting, says the city has reduced energy use by 70 percent and carbon emissions by nearly 50,000 metric tons. Today, they’re working on converting 220,000 street lights into “smart” lighting ahead of the 2028 Olympics.

However, there is still work to be done in California. For instance, about $4.85 billion in unmet needs are required for the parks system, which has gone up since the 2013 Infrastructure Report Card when $3.6 billion was needed. On a municipal level, cities like Huntington Beach has the potential to improve park lighting and pathway lighting along the water’s edge.

Funding available for solar-powered street lights

Not all cities have the economic prowess of Los Angeles or San Jose, of course. Cities like Fresno would benefit from switching to solar since they have a limited tax base to work with, and solar offers savings over time. Finding the upfront costs for infrastructure upgrades often a concern, but funding is available, especially when renewable energy is part of the conversation.

For example, the California Energy Commission offers financing opportunities for cities, counties, educational institutions, and more.

  • Energy Partnership Program: Provides energy audits, reviews of existing proposals and designs, and developing equipment performance specs.
  • Energy Efficiency Financing Program: Through the Energy Conservation Assistance Act, low-interest loans are available for projects up to $3 million for projects including lighting system upgrades, street lights and LED traffic signals, energy generation, and energy management systems.

>> Learn more about energy project funding


Top cities for solar lighting in California

Explore cities across the state that either have current initiatives in place or would be able to take advantages of what’s already in the works.

4 cities with solar initiatives in place

These cities have already proven a commitment to green initiatives. Adding solar-powered park lighting and street lighting will help show this commitment in a visible, yet cost-effective way.

3 growing cities that would benefit from solar lighting

Fast-growing, innovative cities may want to look to solar-powered options beyond rooftop solar power. Adding street lights that are independent of the grid can help these cities become more self-reliant, too.

  • Bakersfield: One of the fastest growing cities in the US, with lots of new development projects in the area.
  • Riverside: Residential solar is already growing in this innovative, forward-thinking city.
  • Anaheim: Green up the tech and film sector by adding solar lighting in this city.

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