Solar America cities spread the wealth
The Solar America Cities (SAC) program, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) initiative that promotes the adoption of solar power into city energy planning, zoning and city facilities, is intended only for municipalities. However, some of the 25 SAC-designated cities are working with counties and other smaller cities to apply the initiative’s grants and technical assistance to support local and regional solar planning.
SAC designate Santa Rosa, Calif., applied to participate in the DOE program largely to expand a solar program in nearby Sebastopol to encompass all of Sonoma County. Established in 2002, Solar Sebastopol set a goal to install 1 megawatt of solar power production and to train solar inspectors and professionals on proper code and installation. “What was really unique and appealing in our grant proposal to DOE was that we already had a vision, and all nine cities in the county were partnering and collaborating together,” says Marty Roberts, project co-director of Solar Sebastopol’s newly expanded Solar Sonoma County.
The SAC grant allowed the program to form a 501(c)(3), create a countywide solar implementation plan with solar incentives, standardize the building permit process and develop a tax assessment model for solar financing. The grant also has assisted with outreach and education programs. “By collaborating with other entities, we can reach more people, develop a uniform permitting system and exploit the economy of our joint buying power,” says Santa Rosa Project Development Manager Dell Tredinnick.
Last year, Denver, another SAC designate, devoted some of its SAC funding to Boulder County and the cities of Aurora and Boulder to support the county’s new ClimateSmart Loan program, which provides long-term financing for residential and commercial property owners who wish to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. Boulder County used the SAC partnership to pay for consultant time to help develop the program and to network with other communities.