September 11, 2012. Orlando, FL – The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC),  awarded four Innovation Awards and six Special Recognition Awards at its 2012 Annual Meeting.

Selected through a competitive process, the 2012 Innovation Awardees include:

Seattle City Light for Seattle Community Solar – Making Solar Shine in the Rainy City (community renewables);
Solar Energy International for its Colorado Renewable Energy Professionals Academy [CREPA] (clean energy workforce development); Austin Energy for its Residential Solar Rate Structure (state and local government); and Lighthouse Solar for its Solar Atheneum Outdoor Learning Centers (K-12).

“Each year, IREC recognizes individuals and organizations for projects, programs and policies that are helping advance the understanding and use of renewable energy technologies in our cities, states and local communities,” said Ken Jurman, immediate past chair of IREC. “The 2012 Annual Innovation Awards acknowledge and shine a light on innovative initiatives that have made an impact in the categories of State and Local Government, K-12 Educational Programs, Community Renewables, and Clean Energy Workforce Development.”

awardees 2012_1500
L to R: Stan Pipkin, Lighthouse Solar; Barbara Martin; Leslie Libby, Austin Energy; Johnny Weiss, SEI; Don Hughes, Santa Clara County; Diane DePuydt, IREC; David Warner, IREC Chair; Laure-Jeanne Davignon, IREC; Bruce Plenk, City of Tucson; Kristen Ferguson, IREC. Image: courtesy of IREC


2012 Innovation Award Winners

State and Local Government category:  Austin Energy
Residential Solar Rate Structure
Lead Partner: Austin Energy
Project Partners: Tom Hoff, Clean Power Research; Karl Rabago, Rabago Energy

A Residential Solar Rate designed by Austin Energy and approved by Austin City Council on June 7, 2012, will be available for all past, present and future residential solar customers beginning October 1, 2012.  Under this new tariff, residential customers will be credited for their solar generation based on the value of solar energy generated from distributed photovoltaic (PV) systems in the grid to the utility. This tariff replaces net billing and provides a larger annual cost savings to these customers than if they had net metering available. No other utility in the country has developed a solar rate that acknowledges the value distributed solar brings to the utility.

Community Renewables: Seattle City Light
Seattle Community Solar – Making Solar Shine in the Rainy City
Lead Partner: Seattle City Light
Project Partners: Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development; Seattle Parks and Recreation; U.S. Department of Energy, Solar America Communities

Despite a reputation for rain, the greatest barrier to solar energy use in Seattle isn’t the climate-but rather awareness, access, and economics. Seattle’s municipal utility, Seattle City Light, is working to overcome each of those hurdles through an innovative Community Solar program that promotes access to locally grown solar energy. The first installation consists of three solar picnic shelters at Seattle’s Jefferson Park. The electricity generated by the solar roofs is used on-site, at a community center. So far, the program has enrolled 455 residents and businesses that have made an upfront purchase of solar energy in exchange for receiving credit for the power produced and the state production incentive. Seattle City Light’s Community Solar program exemplifies how a large municipal utility, with some of the lowest customer rates in the nation, can develop a program that increases customer engagement and access to solar.

Clean Energy Workforce Development: SEI’s Colorado Renewable Energy Professionals Academy (CREPA)
Lead Partner: Solar Energy International
Project Partners: Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association; Colorado Workforce Office – Rural Resort Region (Western Colorado)

In March of 2012, Solar Energy International (SEI) completed a successful state wide solar training anD career readiness academy. In partnership with the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) and Colorado Workforce offices, SEI was selected by the Colorado Green Jobs Training Counsel to support SEI’s Colorado Renewable Energy Professionals Academy (CREPA). Seventeen unemployed/underemployed individuals completed the full rigorous training program and over 40 incumbent Colorado solar professionals took SEI’s training to expand their businesses or gain additional technical training. All program participants completed SEI online courses and hands-on labs tailored to their career goals. 100% of the students that attempted the NABCEP Entry Level Exam passed. These graduates were offered internships with COSEIA member employers to gain real-world experience with some of Colorado’s leading solar integration companies. Over 20 Colorado solar and renewable energy companies hosted program interns.

K-12: Lighthouse Solar
Solar Atheneum – Outdoor Learning Centers
Lead Partner: Lighthouse Solar
Project Partners: Austin Independent School District (AISD); SolPower People, Inc.; Austin Energy; U.S. Department of Energy

As an outdoor Learning Center, this installation is a complement and tool for science, technology, and myriad curricula for fifteen Austin ISD campuses. This classroom serves many purposes and above all is an experimental environment for educational studies. The structure itself is aligned and tilted towards precise solar geometries. Each angle and tilt is meaningful and relates to changing positions of the sun. The roof- mounted panels are fixed and the panels on the rotating beam can be positioned through a variety of angles. The system’s performance is monitoring via an online platform and will register the real time and historic energy output.

“Recognizing these innovative projects is one way IREC advances breakthroughs that can maximize the public benefits of clean energy,” said Jane Weissman, IREC Executive Director.

Also during its Annual Meeting, IREC recognized people and organizations that have made an extraordinary contribution to renewable energy and to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.  This year’s IREC’s Special Recognition awardees are:

  • The Honorable Gabrielle Giffords, Former Member of the United States House of Representatives (Arizona’s 8th Congressional District)
  • Don Hughes, Senior Building Inspector, Santa Clara County, California
  • Professional Testing, Inc., Assessment, Evaluation and Certification Services
  • Barbara Martin, Instructional Systems Design Consultant
  • Michelle Fox, Chief Strategist, Education and Workforce Development, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Bruce Plenk, City of Tucson’s Solar Energy Coordinator

IREC Executive Director, Jane Weissman, gave an extra special thanks to IREC’s ISPQ Credentialing Team for their extraordinary and extra work over the past year.

About IREC

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council Inc. (IREC) is a non-profit organization accelerating the use of renewable energy since 1982. IREC’s programs and policies lead to easier, more affordable connection to the utility grid; fair credit for renewable energy produced; best practices for states, municipalities, utilities and industry; and quality assessment for the growing green workforce through the credentialing of trainers and training programs.