What drives your interest in working on solar energy issues?
Solar energy is vital to our nation’s response to climate change and offers real opportunities for sustainable economic growth. I’m excited to be a part of the growth of the solar industry in Illinois. Fifty-three of our member municipalities have pledged to advance sustainability through our Greenest Region Compact 2, including supporting clean energy. These mayors, village trustees, and city staff are committed to advancing solar energy in their communities, and their passion and enthusiasm drives me.
What impact do you feel the SolSmart program will have on the communities with which you will work?
We have a big cohort of 12 communities and three counties working toward Sol Smart designation. Since solar has much room to grow in Illinois, we have the opportunity to set local policies and process right from the beginning. Our communities easily collaborate and share information and ideas. I believe these 15 leading communities will set an example for many more communities in the region to help solar energy grow and thrive for the long term.
Illinois just passed new legislation, the Future Energy Jobs Act, that will greatly advance renewable energy, especially solar. Our involvement in SolSmart is perfectly timed to rally local governments to assert their role in the implementation of new programs and benefit from investments associated with this new law.
What aspects of your work plan are you most excited about?
Our communities bring tremendous expertise to this effort, and my job is to focus and harness their efforts to help them earn designation so they can enjoy future investments in solar energy. We are also excited about the diversity of communities involved in our cohort. I think the prerequisites related to Planning, Zoning and Development and Permitting will have the greatest impact for our communities.
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I’m grateful for the training and assistance to learn about the solar industry, policies, financing, and technical aspects of solar. I hope to develop expertise that can connect our member communities to information and resources. We feel that SolSmart truly addresses the appropriate municipal role in solar development. Development codes and policies, and community engagement are natural strengths for local government. The SolSmart program cleverly prioritizes meaningful local actions yet allows some creativity for special outreach and engagement efforts. I’m confident our cohort of communities will successfully earn SolSmart designation.