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Jun 2017

Fun in the Summertime: Sun and Wind Energy Policy

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With the official start of summer around the corner, we at Voterheads are looking forward to enjoying the best the season has to offer: longer days, vacation, sunshine, and cool breezes.  To help all of you get into the summer mood, we thought what better way than a blog on local solar and wind energy policy.

Yes, even summer can be tied to our favorite subject of local government!  If you have ever driven by a house covered with shiny black solar panels or by a field with large air turbines, you may wonder how they ended up there.

What you might not know is that many times governments help make these energy producers possible.

solar power photoMany local entities work to bring these new technologies into their communities in order to decrease energy costs and provide benefits to the environment.  As local governments often serve as the testing ground for new ideas, we wondered what they were up to these days in terms of solar and wind energy.  Combing hundreds of local agendas, we discovered governments implementing and considering these new energy sources in a variety of ways.  Below are a few interesting examples.

Local governments across the country are seeing the benefits of harnessing renewable energy.

solar power photoConsequently, they seek methods by which they can encourage both residential and commercial properties to use renewable energy in place of, or as a supplement to, more traditional sources.  They hope that by incorporating these sources more people will have access to cheaper energy throughout their communities.  For example, Tacoma, WA recently requested that its Public Utility Board research and write a plan for increasing the inclusion of solar power in residential properties throughout the city.  The city council specifically requested measures that would ensure that residences at all income levels benefit equally from the solar energy initiative.  The board plans to submit their recommendations to the city council by October 1st of this year (2017).

In another instance, Austin, TX authorized the use of rebates and incentives to residential and commercial buildings in order to increase the use of solar throughout the city.  The city signed an agreement with local Target stores to provide incentives in exchange for their generation of solar power for the city’s use.  The incentive covers 33% of Target’s cost to put the solar panels on their local stores, and the energy produced by the stores will be enough to power 270 Austin homes per year.  These programs provide the partnering companies with opportunities to include solar energy when they might not otherwise and benefit communities via lower utility costs and less pollution.

solar power photoSt. Lucie and Monroe Counties, FL, each considered options to incorporate solar energy into their city and residential buildings.  In Monroe County, the board of county commissioners considered ordering a study regarding the use of solar energy in the county’s newest fire station.  The study would look into the costs and benefits of including solar panels on the roof of the station and the incorporation a solar hot water system and cistern.  The use of solar energy in the fire station would help the county meet its emissions reduction goal of 40% below 2012 levels by the year 2030.  In the end, the board decided to forego a full study.  In its place, the board requested that building proposals for the new station include the option for solar energy and determine the impacts of that inclusion on immediate and long-term costs and benefits.  During an April meeting of St. Lucie’s Board of County Commissioners, the board met with representatives of SELF (Solar Energy Loan Fund), an organization that offers different lending programs to assist individuals that are unable to purchase clean energy on their own.  St. Lucie partnered with SELF through September 2018, and the board discussed the progress made and the potential remaining for the program through the end of the contract period.

wind turbine photoIn addition to local governments looking for ways to increase the use of solar and wind power by their residents and businesses, many cities and counties purchase energy from renewable sources themselves.  Whatcom County, WA, for instance, signed an agreement with local utility provider, Puget Sound Energy, for wind-powered energy.  Whatcom County agreed to the purchase of wind energy for ten years beginning in the year 2019.  The county projects that the agreement will result in reduced energy costs, which will continue to decrease each year.  In another example, the city of Long Beach, CA will be holding a public hearing regarding a similar energy purchase agreement.  Long Beach will hear comments on their proposal to purchase solar energy from PFMG Solar Long Beach, LLC.  The city will provide the sites necessary for installation by PFMG, and then agree to purchase the solar energy from those installations at 11 city-owned sites.  The Long Beach City Council scheduled the public hearing for June 6, 2017.

wind turbine photoFinally, the Board of County Commissioners in Alachua County, FL proclaimed April 8, 2017, as Solar Energy Education Day throughout the county.  The resolution recognized the importance of the development and use of renewable energy to the residents of the Alachua community.  It also called for continued education on the subject, especially directed towards its younger citizens.  The county then partnered with a number of local educational institutions, including the University of Florida, to host special learning activities on April 8th throughout the community.

As more traditional sources of energy become less popular due to their limitations and overall costs, renewable energy will become more and more a part of our daily lives.  Governments at all levels, but especially at the local one where utilities are regulated and managed, need to consider the best methods for transitioning to these sources.  Seeing the popularity of the subject within the Voterheads database over a mere two months proves that local entities are already taking these steps.  So as you enjoy the long days of summer sun and cool breezes this season, think of the potential energy harnessed within them that might one day power your home, workplace, and beyond.  And if you want to know more about renewable energy in your community, be sure to add these topics to your Voterheads account today!

Links to Voterheads’ Events:

Alachua County, FL:

Austin, TX:

Long Beach, CA:

Monroe County, FL:

St. Lucie County, FL:

Tacoma, WA:

Whatcom County, WA:

Maria McCollester on EmailMaria McCollester on Linkedin
Maria McCollester
Maria McCollester
Politcal Scientist at Voterheads
Maria is an American government professional and scholar seeking to apply research and writing skills to the development of public policy. She recently received her Ph.D. from Boston College where she's won some seriously cool awards (See her LinkedIn profile).

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Maria is an American government professional and scholar seeking to apply research and writing skills to the development of public policy. She recently received her Ph.D. from Boston College where she's won some seriously cool awards (See her LinkedIn profile).


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