L.A. launches nation’s largest solar rooftop program

By John Upton, Grist

The first small shoots of what will grow into a sprawling solar power plant have sprouted in Los Angeles.

L.A.’s Department of Water and Power is rolling out the country’s biggest urban rooftop program, which will pay residents for solar energy they produce in excess of their own needs. That will give residents a reason to install more solar capacity on their roofs than they can use in their homes.

On Wednesday, the first solar-generated watts produced under the Clean L.A. Solar program came from the rooftop of an apartment complex in North Hollywood. From the L.A. Times:

The goal of the effort, the brainchild of the Los Angeles Business Council, is to generate 150 megawatts of solar electricity, or enough to power about 30,000 homes. The council hopes to attract investments totaling $500 million from a growing list of companies that want to invest in L.A.’s push to go green by setting up large clusters of rooftop solar panels.

“It is really a no-brainer,” said Christian Wentzel, chief executive of Solar Provider Group, which installed the North Hollywood panels. Long-term contracts with the DWP cemented the Los Angeles company’s plans to invest $50 million in 17 projects to tap the region’s sun-drenched climate.

Four years in the making, Clean L.A. Solar serves as part of the city’s answer to the state mandate to generate 33% of electricity using renewable sources by 2020. DWP officials project the solar purchasing program will help L.A. reach 25% of the state mandated by 2016.

So if you start noticing Angelenos installing solar systems that are much bigger than they should need, don’t dismiss it as typical L.A. extravagance.