What drives your interest in working on solar energy issues?

I’ve been working on solar energy issues for almost 20 years, seeing the transformation of solar energy from a novelty to a transformative force across the energy industry. Solar energy is the most democratic of all generation energy sources, with virtually every community in the country having abundant solar “reserves” that can be economically harvested.

What impact do you feel the SolSmart program and you as an Advisor will have on the communities with which you will work?

I see the SolSmart program enabling communities to treat solar resources as economically valuable assets, emphasizing that solar development is community development. SolSmart provides the tools for communities to integrate solar development into the community fabric in a way that captures triple-bottom line benefits. My work as an Advisor allows me to emphasize the community development benefits and move perceptions about solar energy from being a luxury or discretionary investment, to seeing it as a routine or even necessary component of buildings, land use, and infrastructure at the local level.

What aspects of your work plan are you most excited about working on?

Communities still tend to view solar development as a new form of development or land use, and to see it as primarily a risk to the existing fabric of the community. The most interesting part of the work is helping communities understand that through the siting and design decisions they make, can both enable solar development to flourish and do so in a way that enhances the community. Appropriate design and siting standards need to ensure that property owners can economically develop valuable solar resources in a way that enhances community character, captures natural resource co-benefits, and increases property values without diminishing the functionality of the solar array.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

This experience will help me and my organization develop a better understanding of the ever evolving community dynamics around sustainable development and clean energy. The SolSmart certification is the first step for communities and for clean energy advocates to move society toward genuinely sustainable outcomes. We will be in a better position to build upon the SolSmart work as a result of providing Advisor services.

About Brian

Brian Ross, AICP, LEED Green Associate, joined the Great Plains Institute in 2015 after 20 years as a consultant working on sustainable development in local decision-making and implementation. He leads the Institute’s work on solar energy market transformation and manages technical and policy programs to help local, regional, and state governments and institutions meet climate and renewable energy goals. Brian currently works with local and regional governments developing community standards for utilizing local solar and wind energy resources. He also manages stakeholder engagement and technical committee facilitation for the MN Solar Pathways project, a 3-year initiative to modeling solar deployment strategies to achieve a high-level renewable energy future. He has provided expert testimony on energy regulation, including cost of service and rate design, energy efficiency and renewable development, fuel cost reconciliations, and integrated resource planning.