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US cities rally together to strengthen solar energy

Moving toward a sustainable future requires more than one person, and more than one region, to find success, so the White House launched plan to get cities across the country to work together. In particular, the Obama administration has set its sights on solar energy and making it more accessible to everyone.

Through these efforts, the hope is that solar power can reach even those homes and businesses that may be unable to seek out their own clean energy alternatives to non-renewable options. The initiative has the added benefit of aiding the nation's adoption of green technology and propelling it toward a sustainable future much faster.

What is the plan of action?
Back in July 2015, the Obama administration pledged to dedicate funds and efforts to expanding solar energy. The initiative included numerous plans of action, including financial donations from independent organizations, communities, and states across the U.S. It also brought about the National Community Solar Partnership, which is backed by the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Partnerships across the nation will help bring solar to more homes and  businesses.Partnerships across the nation will help to bring solar to more homes and businesses.

The partnership's intention is to provide solar power to those whose homes and businesses are incapable of supporting their own solar energy systems, whether they are renting or simply do not have enough room on their roofs. The administration said this demographic makes up roughly half of all buildings in the U.S.

At the recent National Community Solar Summit, officials from 68 cities, as well as businesses and organizations from 21 different states gathered to discuss plans. The number of involved parties nearly tripled from when the initiative was first announced. The various members are working on existing projects and strategies as well as making efforts to enhance community solar projects.

For instance, nonprofit organization RE-volv is developing a way to help nonprofit and cooperative groups invest in solar technology through crowdfunding with the aid of the DOE's SunShot Initiative Catalyst program. That program, which aims to bring down the cost of solar power by 2020, recently received part of a $22.7 million grant from the DOE.

What it means for the consumer
For many Americans, the option to invest in solar is simply unavailable. Renters cannot simply install panels on the roofs of the buildings where they live, and when there's no telling how long they'll live in a certain location, it wouldn't be viable even if the ability was there.

In other instances, the buildings themselves may be hindering homeowners and business owners from looking into renewable energy options in terms of either space or design. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, some issues include roofs that are too shaded, those that already have too much equipment on them and roofs that are in need of repairs. Yet, these issues should not prevent people from accessing clean, renewable energy sources.

Net metering and community solar projects have created ways to provide solar power to more than just those with their own systems, and the government initiatives and partnerships aim to make these and other options more widely available. Individual solar energy systems often generate more power than is needed to run just one home or business, so the excess can be shared with the community, adding one more reason for businesses and homeowners to invest in the technology.

The SEIA reported that 21 states have rolled out community solar projects to fuel this effort through models like on-bill crediting and utility sponsorship. In fact, Massachusetts solar installers, along with those in California, Minnesota and Colorado, are leading this charge, as the four states will be home to the majority of these projects through 2018.

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