Solar in the City of Orlando
The City of Orlando has set ambitious goals to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency, ultimately reducing carbon emissions associated with our operations and critical services. In 2017, the city also set a target to utilize 100% clean and renewable energy sources by 2050. Through a variety of on-site installations, renewable energy procurement, electrification of city fleet assets, and partner programs, the City of Orlando has made significant strides expanding the use of clean energy. The city is continually working toward healthy and high-performance buildings that will cost less to operate over their lifetime and drastically reduce their consumption of energy, water and outputs of greenhouse gas emissions.
The state of Florida is particularly vulnerable to both the current and anticipated consequences of our changing climate. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is critical to stemming the worst potential outcomes, while shifting to renewable sources will allow the city to remain resilient in the long-term. Adoption of clean sources of energy will also drive local and regional economies, and usher in additional benefits, such as cleaner air from reduced air pollution and healthier communities less subject to resource scarcity and disruption.
In complement to our efficiency and conservation efforts, the below sections offer more insight into the myriad initiatives advancing renewable energy generation and use in the City Beautiful, as well as opportunities available to residents and businesses.
100% Renewable Energy Policy
In August 2017, the City Council of Orlando voted unanimously to approve a resolution committing the city to meeting 100% of the entire community’s electricity consumption demand with renewable energy sources by the year 2050. The city set an even more ambitious goal for its own operations: committing to power all municipal facilities with renewable energy by 2030. This trajectory requires the city to nearly double the pace required to meet the goal of the original Community Sustainability Action Plan to reach 50% renewable energy by 2040. Since the 100% renewable energy goal is determined by the city’s ability to meet the energy demand in 30 years, it is of ultimate importance to incorporate energy conservation and efficiency projects – which will lower total demand – as a preliminary and necessary step in the pursuit of this goal.
Orlando Renewable and Resilient Roadmap
In December 2017, the City of Orlando, together with our partners at Orlando Utilities Commission, the Florida Solar and Energy Center at UCF, and Greenlink Analytics, were very fortunate to be selected as one of nine diverse teams of stakeholders nationwide to participate in the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN) to research solutions to real-world challenges associated with solar energy adoption. Over 18 months, project partners developed a roadmap to achieve the City of Orlando’s 2030 goal of 100% renewable energy for municipal operations and 2050 goal of 100% renewable energy city-wide. The publicly-available roadmap identified the guiding questions and necessary steps that led us to our current state, provided key analyses and clean energy strategies that are critical for moving forward, and offers decision-making tools for ongoing re-evaluation and implementation. To learn more about progress recent initiatives and progress to date, see ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability’s 100% Renewable Case Study on Orlando.
Awards and Recognition
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) named 25 U.S. cities as Solar America Cities. DOE recognizes Solar America Cities as partners highly committed to solar technology adoption at the local level. The awards are intended to accelerate solar adoption in cities—our nation’s electricity load centers—by supporting cities’ innovative efforts with financial and technical assistance, as well as policy guidance.
Orlando is also one of nearly 300 communities nationwide to have received national designation under SolSmart, a national program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Orlando’s actions earned the highest designation of SolSmart Gold, making the City Beautiful a leader among local governments that are “open for solar business.” In 2020, Orlando ranked No. 32 of 70 cities on Environment America's “Shining Cities” report.
Rooftop Solar and Solar Subscriptions for City Facilities
Orlando’s clean energy strategy involves both installed rooftop solar and community solar subscriptions to power city facilities. Prior to 2020, the city had installed 1 megawatt of solar on government rooftops; this will increase to 2.24 installed capacity by the end of 2021. These installations complement the city’s OUCommunity solar program subscriptions that came online in 2020 to power City Hall, 17 Fire Stations, and the Orlando Police Department.
In July 2021, the city subscribed an additional 33 buildings to cover the city's neighborhood centers, senior centers and main parks, and in October 2021 the City of Orlando became a founding member of OUC's 2030 Solar Pledge, which asks businesses to pledge to use at least 10% solar energy upon signing and requires 100% solar energy for all business facilities by 2030. As of 2021, together these initiatives meet 9.31% of the city's energy needs through clean, solar power.
Across Florida, the use of man-made stormwater retention ponds have been engineered to manage frequent rainfall and mitigate flooding. Since 2017, the City of Orlando and OUC have been experimenting with floating solar – “floatovoltaics” - on these retention ponds as an innovative applicable to advance more distributed renewable energy, bolstered in 2019 when the University of Central Florida (UCF) was awarded a grant to study the impacts and enhanced benefits of this technology.
The first project was a 33 kW array at the OUC Gardenia Facility. Fast forward to today, the Orlando region has over 1 megawatt (MW) of floating solar installed, including a new array at the Orlando International Airport that will be seen by 75+ million visitors a year. In addition, with the success of an energy storage grant, Orlando and OUC are working to test the combination of floating solar and green hydrogen production for energy storage, and to explore how various clean technologies can work together to address intermittency challenges with renewables. With over 100 lakes locally, there is tremendous potential to utilize floating solar to achieve the city’s 100% renewable energy commitment by 2050.
Streamlined Solar Permitting
The City of Orlando is constantly working to make our services more efficient and easier to use, as well as to incentivize projects that contribute to our sustainability goals. Starting in 2017, the City of Orlando implemented a digital permit application process for solar projects to make the process more convenient and quicker. This digital permitting plan and review process also provides greater transparency for customers with its enhanced commenting and tracking capabilities.
A Resilience Hub is infrastructure and programming - traditionally located in or near underserved neighborhoods, centers of employment, transit centers, or other public spaces - built to support residents and coordinate resource distribution and services before, during, or after a natural hazard event. As part of our sustainability and resilience efforts, as well as in alignment with the Future-Ready City Master Plan, the City of Orlando is working with internal and external partners to establish these hubs throughout the city.
In 2021, six neighborhood centers were selected to serve as the city’s first resilience hubs - Callahan, Dover Shores, Engelwood, Northwest, Dr. James R. Smith and Rosemont - with a goal for all neighborhood centers in the city to become hubs in the years to come. Each facility will be updated to support additional energy load, utilize on site solar and storage wherever feasible, and provide tools and services to residents in response extreme weather events and a changing climate.
Resources for Residents and Businesses
Cooperative Solar Purchasing Program
Solar co-ops help educate residents on the process of equipping their homes with solar energy and can offer low bulk-purchasing opportunities. The first Orlando Solar Co-ops took place in 2019 in partnership with Solar United Neighbors (SUN), a nonprofit helping people to go solar and understand and advocate for their energy rights. Since then, hundreds of residents have participated in 8 and counting co-ops. As the solar co-ops continue to show success and gain interest, the city will continue to support co-op opportunities to community members.
Solar and Energy Loan Fund
The city is proud to sponsor the Solar & Energy Loan Fund (SELF), a nonprofit community lending organization providing financing for assorted home improvements that can help save money, increase equity and home value, improve hurricane resistance and enhance comfort and livability. SELF has a mission is to rebuild and empower underserved communities by providing access to affordable and innovative financing for sustainable property improvements, with the primary focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, climate resilience and livability adaptations in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program
Since 2016, the City of Orlando has provided financial tools to home and business owners to help them lower their utility bills and make our buildings more energy and water efficient through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. PACE removes the barriers of high upfront costs and provides low-interest financing to help residents and business owners looking to modernize, mitigate wind damage and improve the energy and water efficiency of their property.
Utility Programs and Efforts
Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC)
The Orlando Utilities Commission has undertaken various numerous solar projects, as well as offers guides, resources and unique programs to residential and commercial customers to install or purchase solar energy. OUCollective solar makes it easier and more affordable for homeowners to install Solar Photo-voltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. Through a partnership with esaSolar, OUC's electric customers can take advantage of discounted pricing from top solar panel manufacturers. OUC can also assist with other solar projects for your home or business, and offers rebates for many upgrades.
The OUCommunity Solar program gives OUC’s residential and business customers access to sustainable, maintenance-free solar energy without the hassles and costs associated with installing panels on their homes or businesses. With no upfront cost to the consumer, this program makes purchasing solar power more accessible and affordable for more people. Learn more about frequently asked questions, calculate the cost of switching to solar, and read about the Bright Bunch Solar Loyalty program here.
Duke Energy has also been incorporating more renewables into their short and long strategies. Duke Energy’s Shared Solar program offers Florida residents and businesses a new way to participate in solar energy — regardless of ownership status, and without the hassle of rooftop installation or maintenance. Duke also offers solutions for customers interested in installing solar panels on their home or business who want to generate their own clean energy directly.