Taking the solar world by the reins, the City of Lancaster has entered into numerous forward-thinking one-of-a-kind partnerships with leaders in the alternative energy realm. The revolution began with the City of Lancaster working very closely with eSolar to bring its 20-acre 5 MW Sierra SunTower solar project from conception to completion in just 14 months. In August 2009, eSolar proudly held the grand opening of the nation’s only operating solar thermal power tower plant in the United States.
The movement continued in early 2010 when Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich invited Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris to attend a meeting with China-based technology and manufacturing giant Build Your Dream (BYD), one of the world’s largest suppliers of advanced battery technology. Mayor Parris visited BYD’s Solar Village in Shenzhen, China, where he had the opportunity to witness firsthand the company’s commitment to clean energy. Upon his return to Lancaster, the Mayor explored ways to utilize BYD’s impressive technology on a residential level. Soon afterward, the City facilitated a partnership with KB Home, one of the nation’s premier homebuilders, and BYD to create a never-before-attempted affordable solar energy housing community. This project came to fruition on July 13, 2010, with the unveiling of a prototypical modestly priced energy-efficient home designed to generate more power than it uses. The grand opening event was held at KB Home’s Alamosa community in West Lancaster. Since that time, two additional communities have followed suit within the City.
In July 2010, the solar journey continued when the City of Lancaster, in partnership with SolarCity, launched the Solar Lancaster program—an affordable solar financing program for homeowners, business owners and nonprofit organizations. The Solar Lancaster program was designed to simplify the process of going solar—by reducing energy bills, offering several financing options and discounting solar pricing, while providing custom solar system designs and monitoring.
This was one of the most expansive solar community programs ever undertaken and included clients such as Sierra Toyota Car Dealership; Lancaster School District (19 sites); Desert Christian School (three sites); Eastside School District (two sites); Lancaster Business Park; and Lancaster Baptist Church. In addition, five City facilities—the Lancaster Municipal Stadium, City Hall and the Lancaster Performing Arts Center among other sites—are now powered with clean, non-polluting solar energy in a 1.45 megawatt project, which is projected to save the city an estimated $6 million over 15 years. Clear Channel Stadium, home of the Lancaster JetHawks, is the first Minor League Baseball Stadium in the country to go green. Its new solar system offsets close to 100 percent of its energy use and will save its owners nearly $50,000 in the first year of operation alone.
Additional City solar partnerships include entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and a power purchase agreement (PPA) with US Topco Energy, Inc. This public/private partnership allows for the development and construction of a number of solar energy facilities, with the intent to sell the power generated on a wholesale basis to other utilities.
One of the City’s most recent ventures is an expanded relationship with clean-energy investment firm Beautiful Earth Group. After designating land for future development of a zero-carbon footprint plant within Lancaster, the City and Beautiful Earth decided to up the ante and take a historic step toward making Lancaster one of the first “Net Zero Cities” in the world. This designation establishes Lancaster as a location which produces as much energy from sustainable sources, such as solar energy, as it consumes.
The City has also partnered with leading industry pioneers to aggressively research and implement projects in the areas of hydrokinetic, concentrated photovoltaic, concentrated solar power, as well as first-of-its-kind power transmission in the Antelope Valley.
For its innovative and groundbreaking efforts in the renewable energy platform, the City of Lancaster garnered prestigious recognition from Wolfgang Neumann’s Energy Globe World Award 2012 in Vienna, Austria in September, bringing home to the United States the first place prize in the “Fire” category.
The City of Lancaster continues to aggressively pursue alternative energy solutions in hopes of bettering the current and future environmental and economic conditions of its community, region, country, and the world.