Solar Power WorldOctober 15, 2019234
Solar Energy International (SEI)’s technical consulting program for solar market development in rural communities, Solar Forward, has officially surpassed the 1-MW mark of new, solar panel installations across rural Colorado. The program has yielded 1.2 MW of installed solar panels to-date and numbers continue to climb.
Solar power market growth creates energy independence and economic resiliency in rural communities. A major focus of this program is local economic development and job creation. Since its inception, this program has created nearly 20 new solar energy jobs in rural communities, in addition to 200 new solar-powered systems. It has also generated approximately $3 million invested into local economies across the state.
“Rural communities can benefit the most from the economic development and resiliency of a solar market,” said Program Manager Mary Marshall. “So many big cities and states are pledging to go 100% renewable by 2030 or 2050, with the resources to achieve these goals — whether it be technical resources, financial resources or dedicated staff. Rural America is at risk of being left behind amid the renewable energy transition. Our program aims to leverage SEI’s years of workforce development technical expertise to help communities take sustainability into their own hands.”
The solar energy program provides free technical assistance in the form of both coaching and a ‘toolkit’ to local community groups, nonprofits, or government departments interested in meeting sources of renewable energy goals for their region. It helps community groups tackle policy barriers, develop solar panel installation support within the community, and implement a bulk-purchase solar power adoption campaign — in addition to giving partners access to SEI’s industry-leading solar energy design and solar panel installation training curriculum.
The Solar Forward program was born out of a prevalent problem in Western Colorado, and nationwide: As communities transition from coal-dependent economies, there is a need now more than ever to diversify local economies and build sources of renewable energy solutions for the future. Solar energy creates new local jobs, and locally-produced energy helps keep money in the communities that need it the most.
These numbers are a result of four partnered counties across Colorado: Delta, Montrose, Gunnison and Summit. In 2019, Solar Forward assisted Gunnison, Montrose and Summit Counties. In 2020 the program aims to expand to six regions across Colorado and Wyoming. SEI is now accepting applications for the 2020 cycle by the end of 2019.
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