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Solar PV panels generate electricity and insulate the building! Solar hot water panels capture the sun's heat directly and store it in water



It has been shown that solar PV panels insulate the roof of buildings from the sun's heat, reducing incident heat by as much as 38%. This further reduces the air conditioning load, thus reducing hot air dumped into the urban environment. Solar hot water panels may contribute as much as 0.3 degrees Celsius cooling at night in urban settings, leading to significant UHI reduction effects. And by producing renewable energy, solar panels help to reduce future global warming. Last, but not least, solar panels can provide electricity when it is most needed during heat waves, thus helping to prevent food spoilage, heat stroke and other negative impacts. In short, solar PV provides a triple benefit in UHI reduction.

Category of the action


Who will take these actions?

The city can promote solar PV and solar hot water through public education, door to door campaigns, group discount programs, providing direct subsidies, requiring solar ready roofs and solar PV installations for all new construction and major renovations (about 1% of the build environment at any given time), encouraging solar panel production in Cambridge, providing incentives to companies working on solar innovation in Cambridge, partnering with non-profits promoting solar in Cambridge (e.g. Green Cambridge, HEET), setting up a referral program with approved vendors in Cambridge, accelerating permitting of solar installations in Cambridge, hiring staff to promote solar installations in Cambridge, installing solar on all municipal buildings wherever possible (as is being done with the King school construction for example), integrating solar PV and solar hot water into all future municipal building and facility designs, experimenting with new technology such as solar roadways and bikepaths, and publishing on a regular basis the amount of solar PV and solar HW installed in Cambridge.

Many people are not aware of the rapid drops in the cost of solar, and they mistakenly assume that solar panels are prohibitively expensive. Therefore a public outreach campaign is required to help educate people on the benefits and falling costs of solar. Solar installation companies are able to generate enough business as is that they are not deploying people to go door to door to educate the market. Non-profits are doing some of that but it is difficult to scale. The city is in a great position to help educate the populace about the benefits of solar.

What are other key benefits?

Obviously widespread solar adoption in Cambridge would benefit us by producing electricity without exacerbating climate change, and would also improve our resiliency to climate change when integrated with storage and microgrid technologies to provide power during power outages to key infrastructure in the city.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The cost of solar is dropping rapidly (down to $0.70/watt un-installed), and even modest subsidies can help home owners finance solar installations. Furthermore, the program can require building developers to pay into a fund for solar promotion, thus making the program itself revenue neutral. Primary cost would be to hire staff to evaluate and implement opportunities to promote solar. One FTE at $50,000/year could make a big difference in promoting solar and working on city regulations, incentives and communication programs to encourage, enable and require solar wherever possible.

Time line

In the first year the Solar Energy Promoter staff person would identify opportunities to promote solar both within municipal operations and buildings and within the community. The low-hanging fruit opportunities would be implemented right away, such as e.g. maximizing municipal solar opportunities and helping qualified property owners to install solar through incentives and outreach, while more complex proposals would be prepared for grant funding applications, city council approval and/or city manager approval as needed, such as e.g. implementing a solar readiness and solar requirement, and implementing solar roadways. After the first year, additional staff could be hired, and other entities in the community would also get involved. Three to five years into the program, solar adoption in Cambridge should be widespread, and promoting it will have become more routine. But there will always be new opportunities for the city to adopt and promote new and improved solar technologies.

Related proposals


References in the text above. See also: