In April 2008, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $2,400,000 in funding to 12 cities across the country for the development of solar power projects. The DOE’s Solar America Cities were chosen for their commitment and comprehensive approach to the deployment of solar technologies and the development of sustainable solar infrastructures. These projects further President Bush’s Solar America Initiative (SAI), which aims to make electricity from solar photovoltaics cost-competitive with conventional electricity by 2015.

The Solar America Cities—Denver; Houston; Knoxville, Tenn.; Milwaukee; Minneapolis/St. Paul; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Jose, Calif.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; and Seattle—will each receive $200,000 from the DOE to integrate a variety of solar energy technologies throughout the city.

In addition to investing up to $2.4 million, the DOE also will provide hands-on assistance from technical experts to help cities integrate solar technologies into energy planning, zoning and facilities; streamline local regulations and practices that affect solar adoption by residents and businesses; present solar financing options; and promote solar technology among residents and local businesses through outreach, curriculum development and incentive programs.

The selected cities have varying degrees of solar resources and experience with solar technologies. Each will adopt a variety of approaches to building up their solar infrastructure and deploying cutting-edge technologies, which include solar water heating, photovoltaics and large-scale solar thermal technology. Sacramento, for example, will use the money to put photovoltaic panels on some city buildings, paving the way for more panels atop businesses and homes. The city’s goal is to have five megawatts of solar panels on city buildings within two years and 40 megawatts of power from renewable energy sources by 2017. Currently, two buildings in the city are outfitted with panels, one appropriately at the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters and a second at the Sacramento Zoo. The city also plans to use the federal assistance to help fund a regional incentives zone for sustainable businesses and a solar technician program at the local community college district.