LA County Community Solar Opportunity Map
The community solar opportunity map is a web tool built to assist community-based organizations in identifying and prioritizing sites for the development of community solar installations and/or resiliency centers within LA County.
The California Center for Sustainable Communities (CCSC) at UCLA has developed this tool as an interactive, web-based platform which aids in locating, filtering, and prioritizing sites on institutional, publicly owned, and community oriented properties throughout the county that can host rooftop and/or carport canopy solar PV systems. Installing additional distributed solar PV both in front of and behind the meter can help improve local energy system resilience, advance community-scale Zero Net Energy goals, and enhance grid reliability.
Community solar installations are in front of the meter systems that enable renters, as well as homeowners who are unable to install solar, to purchase power generated by local PV systems, helping to overcome some of the barriers to under-served communities, allowing them to benefit from the clean energy transition. Resiliency centers are behind the meter systems that serve community members during grid outages by providing cool (or warm) spaces, charging points for critical electronics, wifi connectivity, and other resources. Our aim is to support community-based organizations and local governments accelerate their planning and implementation efforts to bring community solar projects and resiliency centers to their constituents and particularly within historically underresourced areas.
The map uses cutting-edge data and analytics to show community assets that may be prime locations for installing solar. This capability has not been publicly available to date. The tool focuses on the service territory of the regional investor-owned electric utility in LA County, Southern California Edison. The tool supports many types of energy systems planning activities, including siting DERs and electric vehicle charging stations, understanding geographic variations in congestion of local distribution grid infrastructure, and detailing areas that are well positioned to support decarbonization efforts.
The tool builds on one of the capstone products of an Advanced Energy Community (AEC) Phase I design grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC). As part of that design process, the AEC project team compiled multiple sources of data for unincorporated communities of Eastern LA County, including Bassett and Avocado Heights, on electricity and natural gas consumption, community characteristics, and existing grid capacity. The planning process devised methods and datasets to support decarbonization efforts in these parts of the county.
This Community Solar Opportunity Map applies the knowledge gained in that work, expands the geographic scale, adds new data, and employs new data integration methods. Funding for this work is provided by a grant from California’s Strategic Growth Council, under the California Climate Investments Initiative.
Specifically, the tool integrates data for:
- Institutional, publicly owned, and community-oriented parcel locations such as schools, parks, government facilites, healthcare centers, and more,
- Rooftop and parking lot canopy structure solar potentials,
- Community level aggregated electricity consumption from the UCLA Energy Atlas,
- Net solar potential considering historic on-site demand for potential installation sites,
- Detailed grid distribution circuit capacity data published by Southern California Edison (SCE) as part of their Distributed Resources Planning External Portal (DRPEP),
- Socio-demographic information from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey,
- Data on environmental pollution burdens and other sources of community disadvantage from CalEnviroScreen 4.0
In developing the tool, we devised custom methods to calculate net solar potential relative to the constraints of available data on grid capacity limitations and operations. The new methods include calculating hourly net solar potential and attributing groups of parcels to local circuits across a vast metropolitan area that comprises nearly 16% of the population of California.
The development of this tool was guided by our project partners, listed below, who provided input on their priorities and goals for the energy transition, and who gave iterative feedback on the tool content, functionality and user interface through meetings and discussions starting in June of 2019.
- Liberty Hill Foundation
- Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement
- Active San Gabriel Valley
- East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
- Pacoima Beautiful
- Redeemer Community Partnership
- Social Justice Learning Institute
- TRUST South LA (Tenemos Que Reclamar Y Unidos Salvar La Tierra)
Additional input was provided by workshop attendees from other regional advocacy and non-profit organizations, including The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), GRID Alternatives, East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE).