This week, there were two big clean energy projects announced in California that are remarkable for a couple of reasons. Together, these two projects will power hundreds of thousands of homes with clean, affordable solar energy.
They will create thousands of good-paying jobs and billions in local economic benefits.
They also garnered support from a diverse and unexpected group of allies that included business, labor, and environmental organizations.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance clearing the way for 150 megawatts of rooftop solar in the city. The CLEAN LA Solar program will allow local property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP), using a mechanism called a feed-in tariff, or, in plain language, a solar cash-back program.
Los Angeles will be the largest city in the nation to adopt such a program, which will supply renewable energy at a reasonable cost while spurring private investment and creating high-quality jobs.
"This is a smart, cost-effective method for businesses to create economic opportunity while weaning ourselves off the coal-fired plants that generate most of the city's power," said Brad Cox, Immediate Past Chairman of the Los Angeles Business Council.
Evan Gillespie of our California Beyond Coal campaign says this victory represents two years of work with the business community in LA: "The program, when fully realized in three years, will lead to 4,500 new jobs and $500 million in economic activity here in LA," Evan says. This move will also offset 2.25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016.
Meanwhile this week, more clean energy good news came out of California when we (along with Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council) announced our support for a set of proposed large-scale solar power projects in Imperial County.
When completed, the Mt. Signal, Calexico I and Calexico II solar projects under development by 8minutenergy will produce 600 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 200,000 households. The projects are located on privately owned, disturbed land currently used to grow highly water-intensive landscaping grasses.
The developer has agreed to create and implement a conservation fund to address possible impacts to burrowing owls, which are potentially affected by the large-scale development of solar in Imperial County. The biological effects from the projects are significantly less than proposed renewable energy projects on environmentally sensitive public lands. These Imperial County projects show that it is possible to develop viable, cost-effective projects without sacrificing our precious desert wildlands.
Importantly, to help ensure this project would provide quality jobs, the Sierra Club introduced the developer to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. IBEW and 8minutenergy entered into a Project Labor Agreement to employ local Imperial Country workers for the projects. Imperial County has the highest unemployment rate in California (27 percent) and 23 percent of the population is below the poverty line. The projects represent a $1 billion economic impact to the county over 30 years and will provide $20 million for the Calexico Unified School District.
"These projects are truly a win-win for local Imperial County workers and the environment," said Johnny Simpson, Business Manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569. "They will create good, middle-class green jobs with skilled training, health care benefits and pension retirement while reducing polluting greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change."
We are replacing dirty coal power with clean renewable energy that won't harm public health but will create good jobs. Now, we need to unlock this kind of innovation and job creation in every state in America. This is our energy future!