Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Planning for Solar, Plano’s Next 20 Years

What do Plano Solar Advocates, Plano’s comprehensive plan update, the American Planning Association, and local clean energy generation have in common? They are all coming together to help build a vision for Plano that includes tapping our untapped local energy resource – solar energy from the sun!  The American Planning Association has prepared briefing papers and webinars to help city planners better understand how to include solar resource planning in long range plans.  And Plano Solar Advocates and our city planners are participating in these webinars to help us lay a stronger foundation for tapping this local clean energy resource.

The City of Plano is in the process of revising its Comprehensive Plan. This plan, called “Plano Tomorrow” will be the guiding document for land use development and transportation planning for the next 20 years, helping to ensure that Plano continues to be a thriving employment center and great place to live.  Citizens can become involved and provide inputs to the development of this comprehensive plan by taking an online survey, using the “engage Plano” website, and participating in a group meeting process called “Take the Case”.  Information about the process and how to get involved can be found by following this link - How Can I Get Involved?

On September 24, 2013, a number of Plano Solar Advocate volunteers met together to participate in one of the “Take the Case” group meetings.  The main objective from the meeting was to develop three to five leading ideas to provide to city planners that they would consider for including in the comprehensive plan update.  The results from our session is given at the end of this blog posting.

We are encouraging other citizens to take time to provide your inputs about Plano’s future, and in particular, Plano’s solar future by doing one or more of the following:
Please feel free to utilize ideas from our “Take the case” session when submitting your inputs if it helps you to formulate your ideas.

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocate (LH)

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Plano Solar Advocates - Leading Ideas for Plano for Comprehensive Plan suggestions developed during our Sept 24, 2013 “Take the Case” group meeting.

1. Establish an Environmental and Sustainability Citizen’s Advisory Board with representation from the City Council similar to other Boards and Commissions. This board would address all aspects of environmental sustainability including sustainable transportation, economic viability and opportunities for community engagement. Economic viability might include expanding the Research Technology area of Plano to attract higher income employment opportunities.

2. Develop and maintain a long range Energy Plan that includes all energy consumers - municipal, residential and business. Plano currently imports all of its electricity. The energy plan should include the objective of meeting 40% of electricity needs from locally generated solar power, 40% from imported clean energy, and the remaining 20% coming from reduced consumption and conventional energy sources. Utilizing local distributed solar energy will help offset peak demand periods, especially in the summer, and reduce stress on the utility distribution grid. A goal for the energy plan would for Plano to become known as the leader of Solar Friendly Communities across Texas and the nation. Plano should be also become a leader in the implementation of the Texas PACE program, the Texas Property Assessed Clean Energy Act legislation passed in June 2013. (See http://www.keepingpaceintexas.org/)

3. Update and enhance building code standards to promote energy net zero buildings for both new structures and re-development projects. This should include public education regarding the importance of natural resource stewardship.

4. Establish plan and vision to address long range water challenges, including reuse of gray water.  In combination with an energy plan that promotes local solar energy for electricity generation, water resources can be conserved because electricity generation from PV solar does not require water, unlike conventional centrally generated electricity power plants. Also, the treatment and delivery of our water supplies to our home and businesses requires a significant amount of electricity. Let’s make sure we understand the percentage of our water bills that are due to electricity costs and look for ways to improve efficiencies and reduce these energy costs. And, let’s make sure we are using clean energy resources like solar to generate electricity in the treatment and delivery of water.

5. Re-development of retail and commercial areas, including vacant strip centers. Possible options could include zoning for shared solar farms (or gardens) that would allow persons who are renters or whose homes are not suitable for solar installations to buy shares of the solar farm and receive credits on their electric bills for the production from their share of the solar farm.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Plano Solar Advocates wins Community Partnership Award

On Sept. 25 the City of Plano presented the 2013 Environmental Community Awards (ECA) to honor outstanding environmental initiatives and achievements by schools, organizations, businesses and individuals throughout the community who make a difference.  Winners of the various awards were announced during the celebration luncheon at the Collin College Spring Creek Campus Living Legends Conference Center. Information is available at the Plano Environmental Community Awards website.

The Community Partnership Award recognizes an organization that has partnered with the City to accomplish an environmental objective that benefits the Plano community, or causes residents to take action to protect the environment in some way.  Plano Solar Advocates won this award for 2013.

Plano Solar Advocates is a grassroots group of volunteers with a passion for increasing awareness and expanding clean, local renewable energy, particularly the use of solar energy for electricity generation in Plano.  Their efforts have included delivering solar classes at local high schools, providing presentations at city sponsored energy seminars and local rotary clubs. Over the last year they have given 32 presentations to 1,220 people.  In addition, they have provided booths at local events like Learn 2 Live Green.  Their community involvement includes organizing solar projects and programs that impact the community.  Using solar car kits provided by the Texas Solar Energy Society, they taught solar energy to 14 PISD classes reaching 215 students while helping them assemble solar powered cars.  Their Solarize Plano initiative has connected homeowners ready to install solar with local qualified installers, and takes advantage of generous local utility incentives and a group purchase process resulting in lower costs to homeowners.

Some of our members were present to receive the award for all of our Plano Solar Advocates volunteers.  See the photo below which includes Plano's Mayor, Harry LaRosiliere, on the left side of the photo.  A link to the photo on Plano's website is given here - http://www.plano.gov/gallery.aspx?PID=695

Environmental Star of Excellence Community Award
Plano Solar Advocates Community Partnership Award

A complete summary and photos of the 2013 Plano Environmental Community Award Winners is available at Plano's Environmental Community Awards program website - http://www.plano.gov/index.aspx?NID=951
Please check out this website to learn more about the various group and individual initiatives happening all around Plano.

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocate (LH)