As you travel through Antelope Valley, you’ll notice a few man-made landmarks amidst the sweeping desert vistas. The nearly year-round sunshine and strong winds make it ideal for renewable energy projects—the first wind turbines in Kern County were built in 1981, and ever since, alternative energy has been embraced. There’s the Tehachapi Wind Farm, producing 800 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year, the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch, with approximately 3.8 million solar panels generating enough power for 75,000 homes, and several other projects.
Renewable energy is so big in Antelope Valley that the city of Lancaster has set some aggressive goals to be a “net zero city” by 2020, meaning it will generate all the power it uses, primarily through solar. Mayor Rex Parris has relentlessly led the charge towards solar since 2009, when unemployment in Lancaster rose to 17% during the recession. By implementing clean energy policies and buying electricity from local solar power plants, Lancaster provided more jobs and lowered the cost of electricity for residents. The city also:
- Partnered with SolarCity to install rooftop solar systems on almost all municipal and school buildings
- Changed the building code to require new homes built with rooftop solar
- Streamlined the process to approve permits for rooftop solar (getting a permit can be done over the counter in as little as 15 minutes)
Lancaster created Choice Energy, a not-for-profit program that allows residents greater choice and control in what kind of energy they use at home. The “Clear Choice” program, for example, offers 35% renewable energy, while the “Smart Choice” program allows customers to use 100% renewable energy.
But all this wind and solar power isn’t just for Antelope Valley! As production continues to increase in the region, government and business leaders are looking for more and better ways to deliver renewable energy to other markets. If you live in Los Angeles, soon, you could be running your home off solar power generated in Lancaster.