7.5 Host Wholesale Power Generators on Local Government Land or Facilities

As solar markets grow, many utilities are increasing their investments in solar energy, either by constructing their own solar generation facilities or purchasing wholesale solar energy from power plants constructed by third parties. An increasingly hot market segment is for midsized solar plants (under 25 megawatts), because these modular systems have enough scale to produce power at attractive prices, yet are small enough to interconnect to the existing distribution network and can come on-line quickly. Marginal land or rooftop space on low-load buildings (such as brownfields, road right-of-ways, barriers around wastewater treatment plants, or roofs of low-load buildings such as warehouses or transit centers) can make excellent sites for solar energy installations. Local governments can partner with solar developers or utilities to use municipal land or rooftops for solar power generation .

BENEFITS Local governments own land and facilities in close proximity to electricity load centers, making them good hosts for urban power plants. Using marginal land or rooftop space has several benefits: it can produce a revenue stream for local governments; power is generated close to usage, minimizing losses over transmission lines and strengthening the grid; and it helps minimize the impacts associated with power plant siting.

Implementation Tips and Options

□ Determine whether demand for large, wholesale solar projects exists in the community. A state renewable portfolio standard is a common driver for investment in large-scale solar projects.

□ Identify suitable sites for large-scale solar installations such as large, flat rooftops (17,000+ square feet) or tracts of land (at least 3 acres) that can be dedicated to solar production for at least 20 years, and can be cost-effectively interconnected to the grid.

□ Work with a consultant or solar developer to conduct a survey of suitable sites.

□ Contact the local utility to determine if they are interested in adding descriptions of available property to any wholesale requests for proposals (RFPs) they are issuing.

□ Once possible solar sites have been identified, consider posting a map online of available land or rooftop space for lease by solar developers.


Suffolk County, New York: Using County Parking Lots as Host to 17 Megawatts of Solar

Suffolk County is leasing out space at seven parking lots to host 17 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV). Solar developer enXco will install solar carports and sell the power they generate to the Long Island Power Authority. The county is expected to make $8.5 million over 20 years from lease payments.

Tucson, Arizona: Leasing Land for a 25-Megawatt PV Plant

The city of Tucson recently agreed to lease 305 acres of former agricultural land owned by Tucson Water to solar developer Fotowatio for a 25-megawatt PV plant, which will sell power to Tucson Electric Power under a wholesale power purchase agreement. The lease for the facility, determined after an independent appraisal, will provide Tucson Water with payments of $127,000 per year for as long as the plant operates. The site was screened to ensure there were no conflicts with habitat conservation goals or city water rights.

Additional References and Resources


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency RE-powering America


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated land and mine sites through its RE-Powering America initiative. This Web site offers tools to determine the renewable energy potential of these sites and contains other useful information for communities, developers, industry, state and local governments, and anyone interested in reusing these sites for renewable energy development.