First workshop out of the ICLEI solar toolbox is a home run (apologies for the sports analogy)

by Jane Pulaski

Philadelphia – April 3, 2011.  The ICLEI team made its debut at a Solar America Communities workshop at the 14th national Brownfields Conference on Sunday, April 3rd.   Presenting on behalf of ICLEI, Andrea Luecke (The Solar Foundation), Justin Barnes (North Carolina Solar Center), and Christy Herig (Solar Electric Power Association), presented their 173 image slide deck to a sold-out workshop of some 160 about how to get started with solar in their communities.  The conference was co-sponsored by EPA and ICMA.

Andrea Luecke was pleased.  “It was really a Solar 101 crowd,” she said.

In 2009, ICMA and ICLEI-USA Local Governments for Sustainability were competitively selected by DOE to conduct outreach to local governments across the United States, enabling them to replicate successful solar practices and quickly expand local adoption of solar energy.  IREC, DSIRE, SEPA, The Solar Foundation, and The Meister Group are members of the ICLEI team.  The conference was co-sponsored by EPA and ICMA.

The free workshop provided an overview of important concepts related to local solar installations, including technologies, costs, and barriers.  Presenters laid out the process about how to create a local-level solar program, and how to install solar on municipal facilities and other community facilities.

According to Lisa Milligan, ICLEI Project Lead, workshops of this size are typically an exercise in one-way communication.  Presenter presents, attendees listen, or check their hand held devices, or don’t come back after lunch.

“But not here, not today,” she said.  “The audience was actively engaged.”

Presenters and attendees alike came away from the day feeling good.  For the presenters, there was a real dialogue with the audience.  For the attendees, they became more articulate on the issues, making it easier for them to communicate solar’s benefits to others.

“For me, it was a two-way conversation,” said NCSC’s Justin Barnes.  “There were both Brownfields and solar experts at the table. Combining the two interests was both challenging and edifying.”

SEPA’s Christy Herig agreed.

“I heard people say that it was great—there was a lot of useful information that can be used in these hard economic times,” she said.  “Someone from D.C. said he could better defend solar now knowing more about the economic and environmental benefits.  Someone else thought the environmental benefits would be an easy sell. Overall, most agreed that the main theme—that of solar—could be used to sell new or defend existing programs.”

Never mind the stunningly beautiful Sunday in central, downtown, walkable Philadelphia—the attendees returned to a windowless hotel meeting room, for more, the sure sign of a successful event.

Working through a large slide deck and keeping your audience engaged and present…wow.

“Everyone was excited about the prospect of turning blighted, contaminated lands into power producing solar fields,” said Luecke. “Solar is perfect for a lot of Brownfields because they can act as a ‘cap’ when remediation is required.”

Attendees asked good questions on the often complicated issues of financial and regulatory incentives for installing PV on blighted sites.

ICMA will be querying attendees about this workshop in a follow-up online survey.

It’s a short rest for the ICLEI team.  Next week, the ICLEI team will once again present at a Solar America Communities Outreach Partnership workshop, this time at the American Planners Association conference in Boston, April 9th.

These and other workshops planned for 2011 are part of the Solar America Communities outreach initiative to engage local jurisdictions across the U.S. with information on solar energy.

Congratulations on a job very well done.




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