The ball began rolling with the Summit Community Solar Program. Now, Summit County has set its sights on a loftier energy goal.
Summit County Sustainability Coordinator, Lisa Yoder has teamed up with Park City's Environmental Sustainability Manager, Matt Abbott, to take Summit County's energy efficiency to the next level. Their goal: to become the most energy efficient community in America.
The movement, called Summit Community Power Works, is all part of a competition called the Georgetown University Energy Prize, an award given to the city or county who "fosters innovative approaches to energy efficiency, educates the public and engages students in energy issues and grow markets for products & services that facilitate energy efficiency."
Any community with a population between 5,000 and 250,000 can compete. Between the years of 2015 and 2017, the community who develops a plan that reduces the most energy consumption per capita will receive a five million dollar prize. But Yoder says the competition is about far more than a paycheck.
"We felt that whether we win the prize or not is not the motive," Yoder said. "The point is that we are going to educate our people. We are still going to gain energy efficiency, increase renewable energy and decrease carbon emissions. Whatever we do has to be replicable. It's definitely going to be designed so that it can carry on after the prize period ends."
Should Summit County win the prize, however, it will be up to a community group, not the county, to decide how to utilize the money.
"It's not that Summit County and Park City is going to say this is what we're going to do, here's how we spend the money," Yoder said. "We're just trying to provide the sideboard for a community effort much like Summit Community Solar.
The framework for Summit Community Power Works will be based largely on the Summit Community Solar structure. Volunteer community groups will establish subcommittees for development, marketing and outreach. Summit County will also partner with local utilities to implement a rebates program.
"We had a tremendous marketing and outreach committee for Summit Solar," Yoder said. "We had some really devoted citizens who did a great job. That's what we want to tap into -- the citizenry."
This type of grassroots movement is what helped Summit Community Solar spread its wings. Yoder and Abbott hope the same will be true for the Georgetown competition. There are some differences in the program, however.
"Where Summit Community Solar was 'let's see who's interested and how many people we can engage,' from a beneficial standpoint, this has a competition element," Abbott said. "The purpose of the prize is to get people to make changes. It's a much more innovative project, not just community activation."
Residents can still take part in the solar conversion program started by Summit Community Solar by contacting U Community Solar, a program managed by the University of Utah. But whereas Summit Community Solar focused on just one slice of energy efficiency, the Georgetown competition will bring the whole pie to the table.
"The goal is to reduce residential energy use," Abbott said. "The less money that leaves the economy, the more it is used locally. It's good for businesses, it's good for families and it's good for the environment."
According to Yoder, alternative energy (such as solar panels) will be used in conjunction to energy and lighting audits, weatherization of homes and more. The full range of possibilities hasn't been established yet.
"U Community Solar would be one item on this menu of ways to reduce residential energy consumption," she said. "We would be looking at energy consumption as a whole. We're still in the planning stage. It's a big undertaking."
As part of the planning phase, an executive committee of seven people — including Abbott and Yoder — has been formed to establish the framework for Summit Community Power Works. The initial planning should be done in November, in time to enter Georgetown's competition in January 2015.
To learn more, visit http://www.guep.org/