New Report: Rooftop Revolution Changes Everything with Cost-Effective Local Solar

Date: 21 Mar 2012 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States, Press Release | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Contact: John Farrell, ILSR, 612-808-0888,

March 6, 2012 | Minneapolis, MN —Within ten years, 100 million Americans in the nation’s largest cities will be able to get cheaper electricity from rooftop solar than their utility provides.  That’s just the opening salvo from a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.  Rooftop Revolution: Changing Everything with Cost-Effective Solar, not only illustrates the enormous, emerging potential for local solar power, but also describes how the rules of the electricity system must change now for the electricity system to be ready for the decade’s energy democracy opportunity.

Download the Report

“The results may surprise Americans, since solar currently supplies less than 1% of our electricity,” remarked ILSR Senior Researcher and report author John Farrell, “but the exponential growth of solar in the U.S. means we have to prepare for a solar future now.”

The report shows that the falling cost of solar will make it more affordable – without subsidies – than utility-provided electricity for 1 in 3 Americans by 2021.  Residential rooftops in these cities could provide 61,000 megawatts of solar capacity, as much power – during peak sunshine – as provided by 30 large coal power plants.

The report cautions that more affordable solar doesn’t suggest prematurely ending solar subsidies.

“I’m sure that a few people will read this report as a call to end federal solar incentives like the 30% tax credit,” says Farrell, “but given historically high subsidies for fossil fuel energy and the existing barriers to distributed renewable energy development, that line of thinking is premature.”

For example, most states impose an artificial limit on the amount of solar power allowed onto local grid systems and many cities charge excessive fees for permitting, two roadblocks to the rooftop revolution.  Terminating solar subsidies would also overlook the particular economic benefits of rooftop energy democracy.  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that community wind projects generate twice the local jobs and 1.5 to 3.4 times the economic impact of absentee owned projects.

Instead, solar subsidies should be modified to maximize the expansion of solar power, the report suggests.  Subsidies could be reduced in areas where solar is already competitive – places with ample sun and high electricity prices – and the funds shifted to support solar opportunities for Americans in more moderate areas, like the East Coast or Midwest.  Instead of tax credits, the funds could be dispersed as payments for actual electricity production, much like international solar leader Germany has done with its feed-in tariff program, and where half of all renewable energy production is locally owned.

Supporting widespread solar installations through modified subsidies can deepen the meaning of the rooftop solar revolution.

“A residential rooftop solar array isn’t just a few kilowatts of electricity capacity,” remarks Farrell, “it’s also the transformation of two Americans from consumers into producers, and into local clean energy advocates.  The rooftop revolution could overturn a century of remote and centralized control of the electricity system and build a political base for a grid premised on the local ownership of clean energy.”

Download the Report: Rooftop Revolution

About ILSR
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a 38-year-old national nonprofit research and educational organization that works to support strong, community rooted, environmentally sound and equitable local economies. More at


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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.