Thursday, May 7, 2015

The City of Dunwoody Sustainability Committee will soon be exploring solar options for implementation.

Important note: This media release is not currently real. But it could be. 

Pattie Baker wrote it this morning following a brainstorming session we attended last night with the Mayor, Councilman Riticher and a few members of the Sustainability Committee who will be researching options for consideration by the City Council.


May 7, 2015 -- Dunwoody, GA -- In anticipation of recently-passed State of Georgia House Bill 57 going into effect July 1, 2015, the City of Dunwoody, GA took a statewide leadership role by announcing The Sunwoody Project, a triple-bottom-line sustainability initiative designed to educate citizens and businesses, demonstrate best practices in action, and provide ease of access for implementation of solar technology and jobs creation throughout the city.

"City of Dunwoody solar barriers were eliminated in our very first set of ordinances," stated City Council Member John Heneghan, a city founder and council member from day one. "Therefore, we differ from other cities in that we don't need to rewrite our rules to allow solar. That means we are ready for action immediately. We now want to provide the community service of helping facilitate the adoption of solar power by citizens, businesses, and nonprofit entities such as places of worship, community centers, and schools."

The City has decided on a three-pronged approach that maximizes its potential impact while minimizing government involvement.

"The best way to prepare a home or business for solar is to make structures as energy efficient as possible beforehand," stated Lee Peterson, a solar industry expert who is a member of the city's Sustainability Committee (which, originally called a commission, was the first citizen group formed by the City of Dunwoody, just three weeks after the city started operating on December 1, 2008).

Therefore, the City will kick off The Sunwoody Project with tips about increasing energy efficiency and encouragement of free home energy audits provided by Georgia Power. Through expedited permitting procedures, it will also encourage green remodeling of the older housing stock throughout the city to make homes more attractive to younger home buyers who are seeking these health-enhancing and money-saving attributes.

Next, the City will offer a group purchasing opportunity for home solar systems to citizens in a pilot project similar to the Solarize Tybee initiative in Chatham County, GA, and related programs in about 100 communities nationwide. It will also host a forum for solar companies to offer solar system leasing options direct to homeowners and businesses (which is now legal in Georgia for the first time, due to HB 57). Concurrently, through its newly-formed Veterans Committee, the City will encourage its veterans of war returning home from service to pursue job opportunities with solar companies, as about 50 percent of all new hires in the solar industry nationwide are veterans.

Third, the City will create three demonstration solar roofs at its largest public park, Brook Run Park.  These will be on its skate park concession stand (which serves predominantly youth), on the greenhouse as part of the Dunwoody Community Garden (where organic vegetables are grown for sale to the community and for its outreach initiative to a local food pantry), and on a soon-to-be-built new restroom facility (conveniently located to serve dog park visitors as well as people of all ages, especially seniors and parents with children while out walking or riding bikes on the park's new multi-use path). Additionally, the City will add solar charging stations for electric cars at all of its parks that currently have parking lots as well as encouraging the inclusion of these stations in all its commercial centers. Local schools (including the middle school, which is directly across the street from Brook Run Park) will be encouraged to visit to learn more about solar technology. (Note: the City does not currently own the schools but will work to coordinate with the county to encourage this educational experience.)

Fourth, the city will showcase the new solar features on the currently-under-construction global headquarters of State Farm Insurance Company (which is seeking LEED certification for the building). These are expected to include a solar walkway to the MARTA bus and rail station and solar panels over parked cars on the top level of the parking garage.

Finally, the city (which currently leases its City Hall space) aims to utilize solar significantly in its future city hall. It already has a government policy to seek LEED certification for any city-owned buildings.

"As a certified Gold-level Green Community with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), we are now looking ahead to achieving Platinum status," said Rebecca Keefer, the city's director of sustainability. "We believe these initiatives will enable us to attain points for both solar improvements as well as innovation on the ARC Green Communities checklist."

"Even more importantly," added City of Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis, "these combined efforts will enable our city to maintain its leadership role as a social, environmental, and economic sustainability example of what's possible in metropolitan Atlanta and the State of Georgia, and will make us even more attractive to new businesses and residents. We also believe that having a secure and affordable source of power, such as the abundant gift of sunlight in our beautiful city of Dunwoody, increases our resiliency as a community."

1 comment:

Pattie Baker said...

John: I provided this suggested Action Plan to Rebecca at CIty Hall. Perhaps it could be helpful in enabling the City of Dunwoody to take a metro-wide leadership role in bringing solar to the city in lots of different ways: