"NLC's City Showcase Program Prizes Innovation in Green Cities"
The Solar Beaverton program is a community program designed to produce renewable energy in the community, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, simplify the process of installing solar, create jobs, support local contractors and manufacturers, educate the comm
by Sandi Burtseva, National League of Cities
The City Showcase exhibition, held
annually at NLC’s Congress of Cities and Exposition, highlights some of
the most successful and creative programs from cities and towns across
Winning programs represent a wide range of geographical locations, city sizes and topic areas, and are selected for their innovative practices. In 2011, the 24 City Showcase participants highlighted the Congress of Cities’ concurrent conference topics: infrastructure, green cities, economic development and your city’s families. Below are the six green cities programs featured in the 2011 City Showcase. [See the February 6 and January 30 issues of Nation’s Cities Weekly for descriptions of the six infrastructure and six economic development programs featured at the showcase.]
Solar Beaverton - Beaverton, Ore.
The Solar Beaverton program is a community program designed to produce renewable energy in the community, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, simplify the process of installing solar, create jobs, support local contractors and manufacturers, educate the community about solar and help residents take advantage of state and federal financial incentives.
The program began with a pilot project aimed at gauging the interest of Beaverton residents in installing solar panels on their homes, wherein Beaverton partnered with a company called Solar City to create a set standard, a set price and a set process for installing solar. In that initial stage, Beaverton also sought out state and federal tax credits, which reduced the price of solar panel installations by about 80 percent.
In exceeding its goal of installing solar panels on 50 Beaverton homes by an additional 12, the pilot program demonstrated community interest in solar energy. The program was then expanded to the whole city.
When designing the citywide program, Beaverton hosted a competitive bidding process before choosing Livelight Energy solar installation. The company, itself local, also uses locally manufactured solar panels from Solarworld, one of the largest employers in Washington County, where Beaverton is located. The program exceeded its projected 220 solar panels installed for a total of 238.
Beaverton was able to spend very little money — only about $19,000 on staff and $10,000 on marketing — on the program simply by setting criteria and price, in exchange for endorsement of a particular vendor. Nonetheless, the payoff is significant. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the community carbon footprint, the project generated 13 local jobs and more than $54,000 in revenues for the city’s permitting department.