Rooftop solar panels atop homes in Austin, Texas. Credit: Roschetzky Photography via Shutterstock.

Our Campaigns

Go Solar

Goal: Convince big box stores to put solar on their rooftops and parking lots.

More Americans are going solar every day. By 2019, our country had enough solar energy capacity installed to power the equivalent of more than 14.5 million homes.

Yet we’re still not even close to reaching our solar potential. Every year, enough sunlight shines on America to provide 100 times more power than we need. We’re capturing only a tiny percentage of that resource. Harnessing more of the sun’s energy would mean cleaner air and a more stable climate, less strain on natural resources, more resilient communities and an energy source we can depend on to be virtually pollution-free for for as long as we can imagine.

So what’s slowing us down? What, if anything, can stop us?

In some places, we’re thinking too small, failing to update policies that would encourage even more Americans to go solar. In other places, we’re thinking too narrowly, putting the short-term interests of old industries with outdated business models ahead of our health, environment and wellbeing.

  • <h4>Shining Cities</h4><h5>Our Shining Cities project is urging cities across the state to think bigger, act smarter, and tap the sun for more of their power.</h5><em>aznaturalist cc BY-SA 3.0</em>
  • <h4>Homes Go Solar</h4><h5>Our Homes Go Solar campaign is urging state leaders to make solar standard on all new homes — because every new home built without solar panels is a missed opportunity to reduce pollution and leave our children a more livable planet.</h5><em>Roschetzky Photography via Shutterstock.com</em>
  • <h4>Stand Up For Solar</h4><h5>We're working to defend local progress on solar.</h5><em>Solar Trade Association CC BY-SA 2.0</em>
Solar on Superstores

Think about your local big box stores — maybe Walmart, Target, Costco, or Home Depot come to mind. What if the entire rooftop and parking lot of that big box store was covered in solar panels? What about all the big box stores in the country?

As anyone who has walked through a superstore knows, these buildings are sprawling. Their vast, flat rooftops are great places for hosting clean energy. In fact, the rooftops of America’s big box stores and shopping centers could host 62.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic capacity, equivalent to the amount of electricity used by more than 7 million average U.S. homes or more than 7,500 average Walmart stores, and more than double the solar photovoltaic capacity that had been installed in the U.S. by 2016. Putting solar panels on the rooftops and parking lots of our big box stores would be good for the planet, good for consumers and good for businesses.

We’re asking big box stores to put solar panels on all of their rooftops and parking lots. We want these businesses to hear from their customers and the public about how great it would be if they went big on solar. Some big box stores like Ikea are already leading the way: By 2020, the retailer had installed over 700,000 solar panels on their stores across the world.

To start, we are asking Walmart to publicly commit to putting solar panels on the rooftops of nearly all of its more than 5,000 locations across America — and over the parking lots that surround them — by 2035.

Stand up for solar

Every great technological advance disrupts one or more existing industries, and solar is no exception.

A few utilities, including Green Mountain Power in Vermont, have embraced solar, retooling their business models around a grid with thousands of homes generating power as well as consuming it. Unfortunately, others have been less forward-thinking. Threatened by the growth of an energy source that requires less capital investment but smarter distribution, many electric utilities and their trade associations are pushing to roll back the policies that have enabled and encouraged solar’s growth. Fossil fuel interests, including the Koch brothers, have also lobbied regulators and others to weaken or dismantle these policies that would have made it easier for Americans to go solar.

Dan Jacobson, Environment California

We’re countering misinformation with facts, including data showing how solar’s benefits to utilities and their customers outweigh the costs of pro-solar incentives. We’re also bringing together leaders from an array of fields to support solar power development.

 

Cities Go Solar

Cities are major drivers of the growth in solar in America. From 2013 to 2018, most major American cities more than doubled their installed solar capacity, according to our annual Shining Cities report. One third of the biggest cities in the U.S. more than quadrupled their solar capacity in that time.

Los Angeles / zhu difeng via Shutterstock.com

The cities that have been most successful share a set of priorities: they’ve set high goals for solar capacity, they’ve ensured that homeowners receive a fair price for the solar energy they supply to the grid, they have made installing panels hassle-free and they provide attractive financing options.

That’s why our Cities Go Solar project works with local elected officials to think bigger, plan smarter, and tap the sun for more power. For example, our state and local advocates, members, and activists are:

  • Calling on cities to join over 150 other U.S. communities in committing to a future powered by 100 percent renewable energy, and establish a plan to get there using locally produced solar energy, and
  • Backing ambitious solar energy goals, as well as the policies and programs that will help make them a reality.

Of course every mayor wants her city to be a leader, especially when it comes to an innovation with the kind of broad transpartisan support that solar enjoys. So we’re encouraging mayors to run a race to the top on solar by comparing the growth of solar city by city in our bi-annual Shining Cities report, showcasing the results through the news media and on social media, and providing the resources cities need to capture more energy from the sun through our Mayors for Solar Energy project.

Even as we make the case for solar on environmental grounds, our national network is bringing together a broad coalition that can offer a variety of reasons to persuade local officials to act — from “Green Tea Party” activists in Georgia who want “energy freedom” to solar installers in Arizona who want green jobs, from low-income communities in Massachusetts who want cleaner air to business owners in Colorado who want to power their breweries and cafes with solar.

Since the 1970s our network of state affiliates has been calling for and winning pro-solar policies and progressing all the way to California’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative of 2006 and beyond. Environment Maryland and our national network have chalked up solar policy victories in 12 states, plus Atlanta, San Diego, Albuquerque, St. Petersburg and more than a dozen other cities. Past successes make it easier for cities to aim higher now, and for more cities and states to jump on the bandwagon.

ACT NOW

If we want cleaner air and a more stable climate, we need to harness energy from the sun. That's why we're calling on cities to go big on solar.

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