By Louise Bilham, November 13th 2014
The city of Lancaster located in LA County is becoming one of the world’s first Net Positive cities determined to produce more energy than it consumes from sustainable sources. They have been dedicated to promoting solar power alternatives as well as other forms of sustainable living and as a result, received the international Energy Globe Award in 2013.
Lancaster is at the forefront of promoting solar technology; determined to create efficient and affordable solar power for all. With over three hundred days of sunshine each year reaching triple digits in the summer months, this is no surprise. The city’s elevation combined with the intense sunshine and winds prevalent for three quarters of the year, allows it to create seven times more photovoltaic energy than other major US cities.
The city of Lancaster has created the Lancaster Power Authority, the High Desert Power Authority and the California Clean Energy Authority, who are experts in the field of sustainable energy. This has allowed the city to take control and make their own decisions about their energy resources and infrastructure, instead of those decisions being made by an external body.
In August 2009, the city worked with eSolar to build a 20-acre solar power generating facility; named the ‘5 MW Sierra Sun Tower’ which was the first-of-its-kind in the country.
In early 2010, the city teamed up with Build Your Dream; one of the world’s largest suppliers of advanced battery technology and KB Home who are premier homebuilders to create the ‘Home of the Future’ project aiming to utilize solar technology on a residential level, creating an affordable solar energy housing community which is something that had never been done before.
In July 2010, the city of Lancaster partnered with Solar City to launch the Solar Lancaster program, which is a financing program making solar technology affordable for homeowners and businesses. As a result, the following are now powered with clean, non-polluting solar energy, estimated to save the city $6 million dollars over the next 15 years:
The Lancaster Municipal Stadium
The Lancaster Soccer Center
The Lancaster Performing Arts Center
Sierra Toyota Car dealership
Lancaster School District (19 sites)
Desert Christian School (3 sites)
Eastside School District (2 sites)
Lancaster Business Park
Lancaster Baptist Church
The solar power in the Clear Channel Stadium, which is home to the Lancaster Jet Halks offsets almost 100% of its total energy use, saving $50,000 in the first year alone.
Lancaster has now gone one step further by making solar panels mandatory. From January 1st 2014, all newly built homes were required to have a solar system of at least 1.0 to 1.5 kilowatts.
What else has Lancaster done to go Green?
Although the city of Lancaster focuses greatly on solar power in an attempt to make it the ‘solar energy capital of the world’, there are other elements that it focuses on for becoming a Net Positive city. These include:
Making residential wind energy systems more affordable.
Constructing a recycled water system which runs from the north of Lancaster University to the south of Lancaster City Park.
Partnering with Waste Management to participate in a number of programs encouraging residents to recycle and discard hazardous waste in the proper way.
Planting trees every year to replenish natural resources.
The city also has a healthy and sustainable food programme called Sustainable Food City Lancaster.
Lancaster was one of the first cities to adopt the Blue Skies Program using alternative fuel vehicles wherever possible. Currently 22% of the cities vehicles are fuelled by some form of alternative energy.
What does the Future Hold for Lancaster?
The city of Lancaster is constantly looking at new ways of becoming more sustainable. The California Energy Commission and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development have funded a $2.46 million research pilot project in the Village of Beechwood to the make housing more energy and water efficient.
The houses are to be fitted with Energy Star kitchen appliances, efficient lighting, solar photovoltaic systems producing 145,000 kWh per year, solar water systems, efficient boilers and smart irrigation controllers. These changes are estimated to reduce gas consumption by 45%, electricity use by 33% and a 21% reduction in irrigation water.