June 15th was another typical sunny day in San Diego, the perfect setting for a Solar America Communities workshop, Getting Started with Solar Workshop, the fourth of its kind in a series of workshops designed to share best practices and tactics for removing barriers to local solar markets throughout the US. The workshop was offered at the 45th Annual National Association of Regional Councils Conference and Exhibition.
Attended by city and county staff and elected officials who came as representatives of their respective councils of government (COGs), the workshop was intimate and provided the forum for an energetic conversation between subject matter experts and attendees on issues that can increase the regional adoption of solar technologies.
“The questions that were raised were very informed and the materials we presented seemed to have been on target,” said Chad Laurent, Meister Consultants Group, Inc.
In 2009, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and ICLEI were competitively selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct technical outreach to local governments across the United States, enabling them to replicate successful solar practices and quickly expand local adoption of solar energy. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC), North Carolina Solar Center (DSIRE project staff), the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), The Solar Foundation, and The Meister Consultants Group, Inc., are members of the ICLEI team, while the American Planning Association, the National Association of Regional Councils and several independent consultants round out the ICMA team. The workshops are funded by the DOE through these organizations.
The Solar Foundation’s Andrea Luecke provided a check-list of what regional COGs could do to promote solar in their communities. “Regional coordination and regional standardization will give communities an edge,, especially as the trend toward megacities continues,” she said.
And to emphasize how important regional standards are becoming, Luecke cited DOE’s new Sunshot Rooftop Solar Challenge grants (for regions that adopt more streamlined and standard processes) as proof that standardization will push down costs industry-wide.
“The solar market is growing so fast – you don’t want to get left behind or get caught doing nothing,” she urged.
Regional solar best practices had their place in the sun at this workshop. Ben Foster, Optony, Inc., shared information about joint solar procurement projects in Silicon Valley and Metro Washington, D.C., highlighting the opportunities that regional councils have to facilitate collaborative approaches.
The day ended with a solar tour, including San Diego’s Alvarado Wastewater Treatment Park, and a county facility parking garage.
“This is the best organized workshop that I’ve attended all week,” said Bill Habig, former executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), currently with Raccoon Valley Partners.
The next Getting Started with Solar workshop is scheduled for September 18th in Milwaukee at ICMA’s Annual Conference.
Slides & notes from this workshop will be posted online at: www.solaramericacommunities.energy.gov/resources