The U.S. Department of Energy awarded Oklahoma City for making it easier for people to choose solar energy options.
SolSmart is a program that recognizes cities that take steps to make their permitting processes for solar energy clearer to the public. In 2016, the solar industry actually grew 17 times faster than the U.S. economy itself.
"That tells us it's an industry with a lot of momentum,” Oklahoma City sustainability manager T.O. Bowman says, "and something that was a huge opportunity to diversify our economies at the state and local levels."
Bowman also says solar jobs in Oklahoma City grew by 106% from 2015 to 2016. Officials believe it's important to continue to find growth opportunities in the metro. With a permit, residents can harness solar energy for their home or business.
“Lots of cities around the country have been able to invest in solar,” says Bowman, "and use them on their public properties and on facilities to keep the cost of operations down. It adds an element of resiliency sometimes to buildings."
Right now, there are no city-owned solar panels but Bowman says OKC could invest in solar energy sometime in the future, if it is in the best interest of the city.
“Decisions made to invest in solar at the city will be based on cost savings, so if it's going to make economical sense for us to get a better rate through solar or to add a level of resiliency, which is hard to put a dollar figure on, then those would be the best investments for the city."
Bowman says solar energy has tremendous potential in Oklahoma and says the state is in the top 10 in the country in terms of solar research potential.
“Investing in this industry," Bowman says, "we are making it clear that we want Oklahoman's to have these jobs. It could do a tremendous amount to fund our schools and our regular public services.”