COOS BAY- Solar Now! University will be packing up its “campus” and relocating in Coos Bay for a couple of days. The fourth annual event, scheduled for Sept. 26-28, is setting up in a coastal town for the first time and, according to one local business, may end up leading to future financial benefits for the Bay area.
The small conference offers community leaders from around the state the opportunity to become better versed in launching and completing solar initiatives in their own cities and towns.
Led this year by the nonprofit organization Solar Oregon, in collaboration with the city of Coos Bay, Southern Oregon Clean Energy Alliance, and Sol Coast Design and Consulting, it will focus on the objectives of the Rooftop Solar Challenge II. It is designed to advance innovative, local-government-level solutions for eliminating market barriers and lowering the costs of grid-tied photovoltaics — a method of generating electrical power.
Shannon Souza, Owner of Sol Coast, says it was a coup to get them to bring the movers and shakers of the Oregon solar effort to the South Coast.
“There’s a conception that we’re downtrodden and at a loss out here, and that we don’t really know who we are, and I think it is a really nice opportunity to showcase the resources and the people and the organization that we have out here,” Souza said.
In fact, while attendees can learn from the state’s solar leaders, the biggest boost that the Solar Now! University could bring is just the opportunity to change perceptions in the minds of the people who hold the granting purse strings.
Souza says everything else is already in place for solar projects on the south coast, all that is missing is the money.
“That is where we need to make those connections and let people see that there are resources there, the investment is being made,” she said, noting that networking can end up paying dividends through successful grant applications. “We need to demonstrate, at the agency level, that we’re aware of it, we’re ready to roll, and we’ve got a good install.
“Solar is unique in renewables in that it is the quickest to assess, the simplest permit and to install, the turnaround time is really simple. We can accurately predict what it is and isn’t going to produce, permit it, get it installed and move on,” Souza said. ”The target audience is actually people who have not, in the past, been exposed to solar but are in public or non-profit positions who could stand to get up to speed on what works and what doesn’t work, what their opportunities may or may not be.”
In the process of doing that, if the community is able to highlight an on-the-ball attitude towards solar, our own opportunities could multiply.
The conference kicks off Thursday evening with a Meet-and-Greet at Coos Bay’s new Seven Devils Brewery. Presentations begin on Friday, including a welcome address by Coos Bay Councilor Stephanie Kramer. Saturday’s program features a tour of the Coos Bay Fire Station and its solar electric and solar water heating systems.
Attendees are expected to include those representing government, industry and nonprofit sectors. Sessions will cover topics ranging from financing options to solar policy issues to community-scale solar energy systems.