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WanTed: Solar Champions

The sun is pretty powerful, but we mere mortals must do more to help champion its power here on earth.

The amount of solar energy hitting the Earth in one hour is more than enough to power the world for one year. So why are we still dependent on dirty forms of energy to meet humanity’s electricity needs? Well, harnessing solar power is easier said than done, and it often takes the energy of a solar champion to ensure that clean energy projects get built.

A solar champion connects the stakeholders vital to a project’s success, or tenaciously pushes a project forward through thick and thin…a pragmatic true believer, if you will. At AC Power we want to empower solar champions by providing them with the tools, partnerships, and expertise they need to get the job done.

What is a solar champion?

Solar champions come in many different forms: an educator or a lobbyist who advocates for the adoption of clean energy solutions to our climate challenges; an energetic and inquisitive resident who pushes forward the idea to build a solar project in their community; the sustainability team member at a large corporation who questions how to reduce the company’s emissions; or something else entirely!

A solar champion may be an individual whose job it is to advocate for solar, but often they are citizens seeking to green their communities and turn an idea into a reality. Anyone can be a solar champion if they ask the right questions and persist. We have worked with individuals from an array of diverse backgrounds and perspectives whose efforts and ideas have been indispensable in the successful development of our projects.

For example…

  1. It was the local resident in Kent County, Michigan who we met on a site visit and took the time to educate our team about the long and storied past of the town’s efforts to develop a solar facility on a municipal site. Through these conversations that resulted in a deeper understanding of the local challenges, we were able to better understand what kind of solar-enabling policy to advocate for and with whom to connect.

  2. It was an administrator at a college local to our community solar project in Old Bridge Township, New Jersey who helped recruit students to take classes in solar installation and gain access to certification through a program we designed with SolarOne, a New York city-based educational non-profit focused on solar.

  3. It was the Ohio town’s Officer of Sustainability who had an idea for redeveloping the township’s 30-acre brownfield into a community-focused solar and recreational facility that reached out to gather expertise, letters of support, and documentation to pitch and push forward her idea with local decision makers at the Township.

  4. It was the college student who interned at our NYC offices last summer and helped design educational materials for upcoming solar conferences and webinars that we attended.

  5. It was the Mayor of Hopatcong, NJ, who, demonstrating environmental stewardship and a commitment to his community’s residents, saw the potential to convert his town’s underutilized land into a revenue-generating, clean energy producing solar facility on his town’s former landfill.

How do you become a solar champion?

Provided below are some broad guiding principles. This is a long list, so pick and choose what feels like an inspiring way for you to get involved. Doing any of these things will put you on the path toward becoming a solar champion! Let us know what you’re working on and how we can help.

  1. Be curious and ask questions! This is one of AC Power’s guiding so let’s start here!

  2. Educate yourself about solar energy basics, as well as the barriers that exist in your community. Is there a lack of solar-friendly policies, lack of support, lack of information? Knowing what these barriers are is the best way to prepare for overcoming them.

  3. Familiarize yourself with the rules, programs and policies in your township or state. For example, community solar is a program available in many, but not all, states and can be an important tool for making solar projects with myriad community benefits financially feasible for developers. Brownfield and landfill adders for solar can facilitate development on low-value and formerly disturbed land. For example, state policies in New York and New Jersey incentivize this type of development, and without such policies, development on contaminated land would not be economic.

  4. Build and maintain relationships with key community leaders, influencers, and organizations.

  5. Identify the decision makers in your home, company, municipality or organization who are committed to stewardship and/or who hold the authority to approve and allocate resources to help get the ball rolling or bring the idea to fruition.

  6. Familiarize yourself with positive precedents to inspire action and show proof-of-concept so that you can share case studies and spotlight individuals who have successfully championed solar initiatives.

  7. Emphasize how the project directly benefits the local community. Showcase economic opportunities, job creation, improved infrastructure, or environmental enhancements that will positively impact local residents.

  8. Offer opportunities for community members to actively participate. These are no small tasks and so it can be critical to identify others in your community or group who will help build on your idea and keep the momentum.

  9. There’s strength in numbers, so join local and national organizations sharing information and advocating for the adoption of more solar. There’s no lack of intention out there. Converting that intention into action is what a solar champion must do!

  10. Remember to be curious and ask questions! AC Power will help assess whether your land is suitable for solar at no cost. Get in touch and we will help you start connecting the dots!


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