What drives your interest in working on solar energy issues?
Solar energy is an important driver of both environmental and economic sustainability. There is a lot of investment in solar energy right now in Illinois, and I feel it is important to prepare local governments as best we can to effectively manage this influx of investment.
What impact do you feel the SolSmart program will have on the communities with which you will work?
The SolSmart program allows communities to collaborate and share ideas, leading to better and more streamlined policy across our region. The beauty of working regionally with a large cohort of communities is that each community brings its own experiences with solar and its own set of challenges. Some communities have had many solar installations, while others have had no solar installations but realize that solar yields positive economic and energy-related outcomes. One of the most important components of the program is that all communities come out with improved permitting processes, and at the very least, a blueprint for how to make their zoning code less restrictive toward solar.
What aspects of your work plan are you most excited about?
I think we have an ambitious work plan, and learned a lot of lessons from our first round serving as SolSmart advisor. Our goal as an Advisor is to lay out a clear path for communities to earn designation and provide them the tools they need to reach designation. We have fine-tuned a lot of the tools we used during the first round to make them more effective and easy to use for our current cohort of communities. Permitting and planning and zoning are the most critical categories for communities to take action on, and I am excited to help set up relevant trainings and provide the tools we have developed so communities can be successful.
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
I am looking forward to learning more about all of the new communities we are working with and how to best connect them with solar opportunities that exist in our region.