A solar revolution is happening one community at a time across the United States.
The last session of the day on Monday in the Energy Access track at WREF 2012 brought together four examples of innovative community engagement programs. All of the programs had a strong educational component and supported the installation of more solar in their area.
Danielle Murray from the San Francisco Department of Environment, a recipient of a DOE Solar America Communities grant, discussed San Francisco’s experience with organizing group purchasing programs around schools and small to medium sized businesses. Aaron Godwin, founder of Kilowatts for Education Consortium, talked about this program’s projects working with kids in Ohio and beyond to educate them about energy. Kevin Bean, champion of Gallup Solar in New Mexico and the Seacoast Area Renewable Energy Initiative in New Hampshire, shared his experiences holding barn raising style community events, but to complete solar PV installations.
There were several elements of the models discussed that had been successful and held potential for scaling. The cost savings achieved through San Francisco’s bulk purchasing program and a new Pre-paid PPA financing option that came out of their work with schools were encouraging outcomes of that program. Kevin Beane’s work with Gallup Solar and the Seacoast Area Renewable Energy Initiative had already demonstrated its transferability through successful implementation in two diverse locations. He admitted it would not work everywhere, but was optimistic that it could be effective in many places across the country.
The Holy Grail continues to be community engagement programs that are effective and can be implemented in a variety of locations without having to reinvent the wheel with every change of context. A successful model that easily scales would be a powerful tool in communities where solar has not yet caught on.