DOE’s Solar America Cities wraps up with a 2009 with a bow

By all accounts, 2009 was one very active year for DOE’s Solar America Cities Initiatives (SAI), far from the typical business-as-usual model.

Starting in March, with the second Solar America Cities Annual Meeting in San Antonio, to the announcement in October of DOE’s Special Projects grants for Solar America Cities and a network of regional solar Installer training providers, 2009 was a non-stop procession of news about and activities of the 25 Solar America Cities, from Hawaii to New York, from Texas to Wisconsin.

I have no idea how many miles SAI team members logged in during 2009, but if I had to guess, I’d put it in the five-digit range.  Despite their hectic travel schedules, Charlie, Hannah, Sarah, Tom, always responded to my emails and phone calls quickly.  Hats off to the SAI team for a job well done.

Here are my top picks from SAI  for 2009:

MARCH: 2nd Solar America Cities Annual Meeting in San Antonio was, according to Tom Kimbis, former Director of Market Transformation, a family reunion. For two and a half days, 165 attendees representing all 25 cities shared their stories, their successes and challenges over a wide range of issues, like training a solar workforce, developing effective outreach and marketing strategies, understanding codes and standards, streamlining the often complicated and time-consuming permitting practices, implementing innovative financing mechanisms and mapping tools, working with local utilities on complex net metering and interconnection issues. “I like being the bearer of good tidings; it’s so rare,” said Charlie Hemmeline as he outlined the key parts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).   “With a significant amount of new funding from the federal government, and the collaboration with all cities, “next year’s Solar America Cities annual meeting should be remarkable.”

MAY: Margie Bates retires after spending nearly 23 years at DOE, the last 11 of which as Energy Star Program Lead and Million Solar Roofs Project Manager. “I’ve had 11 wonderful years in solar.”   Happily, many of us were lucky to work with Margie.  She was always gracious, thorough, efficient, and enormously friendly.

JULY: DOE’s Solar Powering Your Community , a resource to assist local governments and stakeholders build sustainable local solar markets, describes each policy or program, explains the benefits, provides implementation tips and options, and includes short examples from local governments across the U.S.  Each section of the guide is divided into topic areas – typically within the jurisdiction of local governments – that have been integral to creating and supporting local solar markets.

OCTOBER: Tom Kimbis wins IREC Special Recognition Award at the IREC Annual Meeting in Anaheim for his leadership with the national solar market transformation efforts and for his insight and guidance with IREC’s key issues of codes and standards, net metering, and workforce development.  Until recently, Tom was the Director of Market Transformation for the Solar Program at DOE, and is now Executive Director of the Solar Foundation.

Also in October, DOE announced the recipients of its Solar America Cities Special Projects and Solar Installer Training solicitations.  Some $10M through ARRA will fund 40 new projects in 16 cities, enabling them to scale up their most promising projects and concepts to overcome key barriers to urban solar energy use.  For the solar instructor training, nine colleges, universities, and local organizations were selected to lead regional solar installation “train-the-trainer” programs.

DECEMBER: DOE presents on its Solar Market Transformation Program in an IREC webinar with
Charlie Hemmeline, Hannah Muller, and Mark Frickel who discussed the key tenets of the program, along with special updates on Solar America Cities, Solar America Showcases, Workforce Development and State and Utility Technical Outreach efforts.


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