Building a Solar Cincinnati

How the Queen City can harness the sun to power its future
Released by: Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center

Cincinnati can become a solar city. By collaborating with local businesses, anchor institutions and the green community, city leaders can pave the way for a homegrown solar economy. The Cincinnati public is engaged and eager to embrace more solar power. To replace the dirty, dangerous and outdated energy sources of the past and meet public demand, city government alongside civic and corporate partners should adopt a visionary goal of getting at least 10 percent of Cincinnati’s energy from solar power by 2030. By leading-by-example, getting the finances right and building public literacy of solar options, the city of Cincinnati can surmount today’s obstacles and build a green legacy for current and future generations. By targeting key policy areas the city can remove the barriers to “going solar” and with public education and outreach, leading-by-example projects, and securing greater access to financing options, Cincinnati can make this solar vision a reality.

  • Ohio still gets 82 percent of its electricity from burning coal, the dirtiest source of energy. Ohio’s dependence on coal threatens public health and the environment, placing Ohioans at risk for increased respiratory disease, premature deaths and developmental disorders.
  • Solar energy is a powerful solution to these environmental problems and Ohio has great potential to go solar. Southwest Ohio’s solar resources are among the richest 70 percent in the United States, besting world solar leader Germany.
  • The solar industry is rapidly maturing. Solar energy is pollution-free, proven and available everywhere. Technology improvements alongside innovative business and financing models have driven costs to all time lows, but multiple barriers remain to full scale implementation.
  • Solar investments will keep energy jobs in the city – allowing residents to invest in their own infrastructure and stop exporting their energy dollars outside of the city.
  • Thanks to a healthy business environment, state and federal level incentives, and city leadership in pursuing a green agenda, Cincinnati is well positioned to become the region’s solar hub.

The city of Cincinnati should continue to lead-by-example in solar energy by expanding municipal projects and linking new and existing projects to education and outreach efforts.

  • The city of Cincinnati already has 21 solar installations to date located throughout the city. While this is a good beginning, it scratches the surface of what is possible.
  • In order to have maximum impact, public visibility should be tied in to site selection procedures for optimal installation sites.
  • Engaging with other institutions – hospitals, universities, and schools – Cincinnati can build partnerships and achieve a greater impact than as a municipality alone.
  • Pursuing virtual-net metering at the state level would expand the list of viable solar installation sites.

Cincinnati has great solar potential, but that potential will not be realized unless the city tackles financial barriers to solar installations for commercial and residential customers. Public-private partnerships and community projects can pave the way for easy access to solar financing.

  • Third party financing can do much to overcome customer inertia and the prohibitive upfront costs of solar projects. Power purchase agreements and solar leases promoted and facilitated by city government can connect interested homeowners and businesses to financial capital and solar installers.

City officials, solar businesses, and the green community should collaborate to promote public understanding and solar literacy through aggressive citizen outreach and education initiatives.

  • Public education programs by city and community partners can answer consumer’s questions about solar energy financing and dispel inaccurate perceptions about solar feasibility.
  • A designated Solar Coordinator in the Office of Environmental Quality would provide a single point person for customers and businesses to contact for information and ensure coordinated and strategic efforts for solar initiatives.
  • Developing a central, easy-to-use web site or social marketing site where consumers can investigate options, view case studies and learn about current projects would enhance Cincinnati’s profile as a solar city and boost local demand for solar energy.