Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s plan to install solar energy systems at city-owned sites clears hurdle

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A plan by Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration to install solar panels at 15 sites to reduce electric costs and promote clean energy cleared a hurdle Tuesday.

The solar energy systems – some on rooftops and others on the ground — would generate electricity to help power city-owned buildings.

More importantly, it would be a step toward creating clean-energy production in Cleveland, said Jason Wood, Jackson’s chief of sustainability.

That energy would help Cleveland move toward a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 80% by 2050.

Cleveland City Council’s Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee signed off on legislation authorizing the project to proceed at an estimated cost of nearly $14 million.

The council’s Utilities Committee will take up the legislation in two weeks. After that, it could be up for a final vote.

Cleveland initially identified 16 sites. Half the installations would be on rooftops. The other half would be ground sites.

City Hall was later eliminated because the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building, a 32-floor office building across Lakeside Avenue, blocks too much sunlight for an array on the City Hall roof to be effective, Wood said.

The remaining sites include several recreation centers, two water treatment plants, three pump stations, Public Auditorium, a new fire station and the city’s kennel.

Over 25 years it is estimated that the city could save more than $1.1 million in its electric costs. The city would hire a vendor to build and maintain the systems, paying for the electricity it uses in its buildings.

Exploring solar power is a natural step in Cleveland’s “green city” initiatives, which includes a goal that city-owned Cleveland Public Power obtain 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050.

CPP has used renewable energy credits obtained by buying power on the aggregate market from clean energy sources, such as hydroelectric plants.

But this effort goes further, seeking to ultimately develop clean energy in Cleveland and bringing to the city the benefits that go with that:

  • Cleaner air from reduced emissions.
  • Job creation in fields related to clean energy, such as installing clean energy technology. Those economic gains are estimated at $1.5 billion over time, with up to 5,000 new jobs by 2050, Wood has said.
  • Greater energy equity among residents as the cost of energy goes down.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that nationally, electricity and gas bills account for about 3.6% of household expenses. But that energy burden is higher in Cleveland, due in great part to poverty.

In 100,000 households the energy burden for Cleveland residents tops 6%, Wood said. In 40,000 households it tops 10%.