By Farleigh Wolfe
Renewable Energy Program Officer
ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA

Jayson Uppal (MCG), in Columbia SC

The Sunshot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs) just completed two regional solar tours. Each successful half-day “Solar Powering Your Community” workshop provided more than 450 participants with an overview of policies and regulations that impact solar adoption, as well as specific discussions of options for financing public-and private-sector solar projects.  The workshops were designed to provide actionable information on overcoming local-level barriers to solar, addressing soft costs, and implementing a successful local solar program in areas including:  1) revising zoning codes and ordinances to allow for solar; 2) streamlining permitting processes to facilitate solar installations; 3) financing solar projects; and 4) installing solar on municipal and other community facilities.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative, SolarOPs achieves its goals through a mix of educational workshops, peer-to-peer sharing opportunities, research-based reports, and online resources. To perform the work of SolarOPs, DOE selected teams led by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA. The teams include The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC); Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA); North Carolina Solar Center (NCSC); Meister Consultants Group, Inc. (MCG); The Solar Foundation (TSF); American Planning Association (APA); and National Association of Regional Councils (NARC).

Workshop attendees in Atlanta

The goal of the SolarOPs is to help local governments take a comprehensive approach to solar energy deployment by:  Conducting outreach and sharing best practices for increasing solar energy use with thousands of local governments across the nation;  working in partnership with industry experts and national membership associations to enable local governments across the United States to expand their local solar markets; and providing actionable information in relevant areas, such as solar policies and regulations, financial incentives, workforce training, and utility and community engagement.  Over the course of the tours,  SolarOPs speakers heard from local governments across the Southeast and Midwest about successful solar programs, as well as how to address the challenges they face. The Solar Trainers were able to provide a wide range of resources for attendees and helped identify possible next steps to solar adoption.

“Our guest speakers did a phenomenal job,” said Justin Barnes, North Carolina Solar Center.  “They imparted good, practical advice about how to go solar, with an emphasis on describing obstacles that they experienced and how these obstacles were overcome.  That kind of peer-to-peer exchange of information is incredibly valuable.”