IREC’s 2012 Innovation Award Winners


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


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.

Special Recognition Award Winners

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).  In her five years in Congress, Representative Gabby Giffords  became known as THE champion of solar energy among her colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives. She sponsored, and the House passed, her DOE Solar Technology Roadmap Act. She brought her Congressional colleagues to Arizona for a field hearing on solar energy and sponsored a Solar Summit in Washington DC. She acted as a skilled convener, able to bring together engineers, bankers and community members to work together to advance solar in Southern Arizona. She was able to arrange funding for solar projects at a Tucson library and at the Community Food Bank in Tucson.


Don Hughes, Senior Building Inspector, Santa Clara County, California has brought years of experience to the development of IREC’s online photovoltaic course for code officials. In February of 2000, Don took a position as an electrical inspector for the County of Santa Clara California and six years later was promoted to Senior Electrical Inspector where he has been dedicated to the ongoing efforts to provide industry standards, interpretations and procedures for permitting, inspecting, and installing solar photovoltaic systems.



Professional Testing, Inc., Assessment, Evaluation and Certification Services, a leader in the national and international credentialing field, has offered guidance and direction to IREC and the renewable energy industry ensuring that credentialing schemes and examinations meet high standards and follow best practices.  Professional Testing provides assessment, evaluation, and certification services providing effective, valid, fair, reliable, and legally defensible assessment and evaluation services. Their work ensures that today’s workforce is competent and that the organizations administering the assessments are viable and credible.


Barbara Martin, Instructional Systems Design Consultant, and former professor in the College of Education at the University of Central Florida and at Kent State University in educational technology and educational psychology, specializes in instructional design (ISD), criterion-referenced testing, evaluation strategies, distance education, and instructional theory. She has written articles on ISD and educational technology, including a book on designing instruction for affective behaviors.  Better training and more qualified workers can directly be attributed to Barbara’s work and dedication over the years.




Michelle Fox, Chief Strategist, Education and Workforce Development, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is the driving force behind DOE’s National Training and Education Resource (NTER), a web-based, interactive learning environment that provides a central access point for educational resources resulting in reduced time and cost to develop, customize and update online learning materials. With Michelle’s support and encouragement, IREC has used this platform in two ways — for the Solar Career Map project and for the online photovoltaic course for code officials.




Bruce Plenk, City of Tucson’s Solar Energy Coordinator, has moved solar into the forefront in the City giving us workable models to follow all around the country. He has worked as a public interest attorney and teacher while living in Utah, Kansas and Arizona. He has represented many low- income clients as well as representing environmental groups while in private practice. He is a licensed attorney in Arizona, Utah and Kansas. Bruce served on the Tucson-Pima County Metropolitan Energy Commission for three years, helped develop the Greater Tucson Strategic Energy Plan, and made sure that Tucson was designated a Solar America City.


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.