Community-Based Initiatives for Solar and Renewable Energy
By MArGo T
The federal government and several state govern- ments have taken a lead in helping communities adopt proven solar and renewable energy technologies. Two exemplary programs are the U.S. Department of
Energy’s (DOE) Solar Cities program and the California
Energy Commission’s Renewable-Based Secure Communities (RESCOs). In 2009, each funded local opportunities
totaling $9 million to $10 million.
is chair of aSeS and
at california Polytechnic State university.
contact her at chair@
According to the program description, Solar America
Cities’ primary goal is to “increase solar energy use in their
communities through innovative programs and policies
that can then be replicated across the nation.” The program
is also dedicated to “creating a robust nationwide market
for the currently available technologies,” which will not only
fuel economic growth, but also lead to wide implementation
of solar and renewable energy in the built environment.
In large part, this is accomplished through the development of 25 “solar cities” to showcase best practices in
solar energy installations. Projects are encouraged through
incentives, innovative planning and policies, public outreach and awareness. The 25 cities represent a wide geographical distribution, demonstrating solar and renewable
energy projects across the climate spectrum, from hot arid
to hot humid to temperate and cold.
As part of the program, the DOE last July published
“Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments” ( solaramericacities.energy.gov). The guide is a
collaborative effort of 15 contributing organizations and
agencies, including references to some of the partner Solar
America Cities that offer models for overcoming institutional barriers, drafting policy and the like.
In California, 13 projects funded through the Public
Interest Energy Research (PIER) program are developing
a multi-faceted approach to community energy options.
RESCOs will explore a “vision of mixed renewable energy
technologies deployed in an integrated, sustainable and
optimum manner in communities, and ultimately integrated with energy efficiency and demand response, smart-grid
technology, energy storage, combined cooling, heating and
power, and coproduction of value-added products such as
bio-fuels, thus making California’s electricity and transportation fuels more diverse, safe, cleaner and affordable.”
PIER-funded projects are based on collaboration
between strategic partners to implement energy policy.
Many involve local government, utilities, nonprofits,
schools, colleges and universities. Broader goals include
bolstering local government efforts to address climate
and energy in their master plans, encouraging communities to employ a broader mix of renewable energy technologies based on regionally available resources, providing a
means to achieving more stable energy costs within
A few examples of the work underway:
pilot project to develop an integrated renewable energy
•;The;University;of;California;at;Davis;is;designing;pas-sive and active systems for a mixed-use zero-net-energy
renewable energy resources to meet 75 to 100 percent of
the county’s electricity demand, plus a significant portion
of its heating and transportation needs.
•;Sonoma;County;is;developing;a;locally;owned;renew-able portfolio integrating geothermal heat pumps, treated
wastewater, photovoltaic arrays, wind energy, building retrofits and electric vehicle-charging stations.
regional renewable resources, including solar, wind, wave,
geothermal, biomass and others, that will be assembled to
create a blueprint for energy policy and implementation
that can be exported and replicated by other communities interested in performing their own regionally tailored
These programs are all built upon strategic partnerships that join statewide knowledge to local resources.
They also take a diversified approach to technologies, in
order to find the best fit for a specific region’s resource
base. They provide inspiration coupled with practical
experience and evidence-based guidance that will support
community leaders in making solid, well-informed choices
related to solar and renewable energy technologies that
meet their needs.
These programs deserve recognition for their leadership
and forward thinking on how best to meet the challenges
of implementing solar and renewable energy within our
communities. The American Solar Energy Society shares in
this common mission, namely, to “inspire an era of energy
innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy
economy.” Through strategic partnerships and strategic
planning, we will forge our way to a secure and smart, clean
passive solar pioneer, who passed away in Los Angeles at
and passion for innovation in the fields of chemistry and
to SOLAR 2010 in Phoenix as a homecoming to the place
where he worked on early experiments with his patented
Skytherm roofpond system.