Getting Your City’s Buy-In on Solar

After years of dancing around the idea of sustainability, some select cities have begun to make it a reality with ground-breaking solar industry partnerships. Jackie Biskupski, mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, recently announced a long-term commercial partnership between Salt Lake and Rocky Mountain Power, which aims to open the solar market to government operations, residents, and businesses alike.


The city is leading the way by buying 3 megawatts of renewable energy — equal to roughly 9,000 panels — to effectively increase its renewable energy use from 6% to 9%. Given the city’s goal to attain a 100% renewable standard by 2032, this deal provides a great starting point. “Rocky Mountain Power is showing up for us,” the mayor said. “I’m very pleased with the working relationship we have going on.”

This sort of deal doesn’t have to be an isolated case. With the proper emphasis, your company can secure solar contracts of a similar scale right in your own backyard.

Making the Case for Solar

When you’re negotiating a government contract, a lot of weight falls on the power of your pitch. Solar interest is peaking, so you’ve got a lot of positive points to work with. Here are a few tips to help you really sell your systems and seal solar deals on a larger scale.

  1. Take advantage of the environment. Lots of locations have natural assets, so don’t be afraid to use them. Salt Lake City typically records around 222 days of sunshine per year — more than the national average. That’s a lot of potential energy just waiting to be harnessed. Do some research on how the climate in your city would work with solar, and use it to your advantage.
  1. Highlight cost benefits. Solar technology costs are dropping fast, and most solar users see substantial energy savings on top of the lowered upfront costs. The Salt Lake City solar deal actually ended up being budget-neutral, meaning citizens can reap the benefits without seeing higher taxes. During negotiations, a high savings potential will be a big selling point.
  1. Consider taking a holistic approach. Set up a coordinated series of offers not just for the government, but also for homeowners and businesses. This is important because it opens up the doors for more commercial and residential deals on your end while allowing your government partner to make a push for unity behind its green initiative. Rocky Mountain Power, for example, promised to lock electricity rates for 20 years as it develops the solar project, which has helped the whole community see the move in a positive light.
  1. Emphasize the potential good press. Making a commitment to solar gives local businesses and governments the opportunity to buy in and promote their green image. These entities can then act as champions for your solar business when it comes to reaching out to other local corporations. Depending on your target city’s current environment, this can give you a huge advantage. Salt Lake City has notoriously poor air quality, so its solar deal program gives city officials a way to publicly display an investment in positive environmental change.
  1. Speak to growth potential. The public is becoming increasingly aware of renewables as a growth area. The image of the industry is helped further by being linked to supporting manufacturing in the U.S. and creating much needed additional jobs. Try to stress the growth potential, especially if your city has high growth rates, like those recorded throughout the state of Utah.

Getting Started

The ideal jumping off point is your local city’s environmental strategy — try to analyze how your solar arrays can help deliver on it. If you can position your company as part of the solution rather than just another sales pitch, you’ll see a lot more success.

After that, you can take a more unique approach in setting deal terms, but remember to keep your stance as inclusive as possible. Any offer that can appeal across the board to homeowners, businesses, and the government will have a higher chance of success.

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