Skip to main content
Home » Affordable Housing » Expanding Solar Energy Access and Reducing Pollution in California
Affordable Housing

Expanding Solar Energy Access and Reducing Pollution in California

Photo: Courtesy of Asia Chang

Sean Gallagher

Vice President of State Affairs, Solar Energy Industries Association

How can switching to solar energy help combat air pollution in Los Angeles?

Switching to renewables is a great way to reduce air pollution — that was one of the original goals of renewable standards that California enacted in 2002. It was not only to use clean energy and create new jobs but also to improve local air quality. For example, there have been older power plants that have retired as a result of no longer being needed. There’s now over 20,000 megawatts of solar in California. That’s the size of 20 nuclear reactors. We’ve made great strides in solar and that’s resulted in better air quality. There are some statistics that show that neighborhoods in Los Angeles that are near old traditional power plants have higher rates of asthma. By using solar we’re reducing the usage of those old power plants so we can increase health throughout the state.

Why is solar so important in the state of California? How is it changing the state?

 As costs have come down, solar has become much more competitive. Solar power is good for California in a lot of ways. It has provided jobs for more than 100,000 workers. That’s more than the amount of workers in all the big utilities combined. Solar power generated about 15% of the state’s energy last year. It’s not just about how solar helps California, it’s also about how California helps solar. Installation of solar in California has helped customers and utilities companies get comfortable with the way that projects operate. It’s helped the industry spread to other states as well.

What is one innovation in solar energy that you’re excited to see in the next ten years?

What I really want to see in California in particular in the next few years is community solar. A significant amount of rooftop solar on individual home rooftops or business rooftops is already linked to larger solar power plants.

Community solar is a way to ensure access to solar for more people who don’t own their own roofs, such as renters. Community solar makes it possible for individuals and businesses to buy shares or slices of solar and get credit for the output of their part of that solar project. There’s a piece of legislation now that we’re working on that’s called SB-1399 that would help businesses go solar. It would allow businesses to sign up to a shared solar system that is placed on underutilized non-residential spaces like rooftops, parking lots, brownfields and office buildings. This will dramatically expand affordable solar in California.  

How can our readers support the solar industry in California?

Get out and vote. Tell your legislators and city council members that you support solar. Solar is creating good jobs in your community and you want to make sure that everyone in your area has access. 

Staff, [email protected]

Next article