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Going Solar in California’s South Bay

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the City of Los Angeles, the South Bay region is home to pristine beaches and business parks, oil refineries and a nature preserve … and now eight new SolSmart designated cities! In the past year, eight communities and the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) have all earned SolSmart designation for their cutting-edge work advancing solar energy, along with related technologies like electric vehicles (EVs).

Recently, SolSmart staff recognized these communities at the SBCCOG Meeting of the Board in Redondo Beach, California. The new designees received their SolSmart plaques, shared their accomplishments, and even enjoyed a slice of SolSmart cake.

The SBCCOG became the first regional organization in California to earn the SolSmart Gold designation. Individual cities achieving SolSmart Gold include: Carson; El Segundo; Gardena; Manhattan Beach; Rancho Palos Verdes; and Torrance. Two cities earned SolSmart Silver designation: Hawthorne and Palos Verdes EstatesRedondo Beach was already a SolSmart Bronze designee before the SBCCOG program started.

These communities received no-cost technical assistance from the SolSmart team along with EcoMotion, a Los-Angeles based organization which served as the SolSmart Advisor for the region. SolSmart Advisors help communities share best practices and promote greater coordination at the regional level.

California has long been a national leader on solar energy in many respects. But even with 1 million solar installations across California, the road to achieving the state’s ambitious solar deployment goals remains a long one. For residential solar adoption, one major challenge is for cities to develop a unified messaging strategy which provides information to residents and empowers them to go solar.

The SBCCOG and its member cities addressed this challenge by launching solar landing pages on their websites, while expanding access to information for residents through online publication of checklists, permit forms, interactive maps, financing and consumer protection resources, and solar contractor databases.

As Shaun Miller, project manager at EcoMotion, noted at the event, these actions have made access to information more equitable, empowered residents who wish to go solar, and better prepared the South Bay for its clean energy future.

“Participation in the SolSmart Program is a great example of what we accomplish when we work together,” added Christian Horvath, chair of the SBCCOG. “The South Bay Cities Council of Governments is gratified that we could assist our cities with implementation of their respective renewable energy goals through this program.”

SolSmart helped South Bay communities improve inter-departmental collaboration, centralize public information, and deliver a clear message to residents. Recent clean energy accomplishments for these communities include:

  • SBCCOG created and promoted the use of a region-wide online permitting checklist to reduce the time and cost of solar installations.
  • Carson and Manhattan Beach hosted public residential solar workshops which educated homeowners about the opportunities, benefits, and challenges of putting solar on their homes.
  • Carson unveiled the first permanent electric trash truck in California; authorized the purchase of new light-duty, zero-emission electric vehicles; and agreed to install electric charging stations throughout the city.
  • Rancho Palos Verdes completed a feasibility analysis for a 40 kW solar carport with integrated EV chargers.
  • Torrance launched a new solar landing page, and El Segundo launched an online pathway for solar permit submissions.

Five of the cities also earned SolSmart special recognition awards for their standout accomplishments in specific areas. Rancho Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach, Carson, and El Segundo earned recognitions for their work on solar installation inspections, while Torrance earned recognition for its work on solar permitting.

It was our pleasure to celebrate the achievements of these South Bay communities. We hope their leadership will encourage other cities, counties, and regional organizations in California to become the next SolSmart designees!

Read more about the communities in this case study prepared by EcoMotion.