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Solar Maps Help Foster Sustainable Cities By Stephen Graff

Cities across the U.S. are creating solar maps to help residents learn more about installing solar.

“This is a way to make it much more tangible for the public,” said Tria Case, university director of sustainability for the City University of New York (CUNY), which partnered with New York City to create its solar map, set to launch early 2011. “The more we can streamline the process, the greater the likelihood we will see an increase in solar in the city.”

New York is the latest city to be developing a comprehensive map, but San Francisco started the trend in 2007. Boston was a year later. Since then, a slew of other major cities have unveiled maps, including Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and most recently, Salt Lake City and Denver.

Since the tools — which provide data such as solar potential, cost and energy savings — went live, PV installations have gone up. San Francisco had 554 solar installations in 2007 when the map launched. Today, that number is 2,073, with a total capacity of 11 megawatts.  Boston started with about 350 PV projects, with about a half a megawatt installed, in January 2008. The city has since installed 3 MW, and has a goal of 25 MW by 2015.

But how big a role the maps play in the increase remains to be seen. Incentives — which some say are the deciding factor — may be ubiquitous but aren’t permanent.

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