Smart Energy: July 2017

Smart Energy: A Longshot Turns Into a Sunshot

By Stewart Leibowitz

It was indeed a longshot. But that longshot turned into a Sunshot. And that “Sunshot” was a grant award from the Federal Department of Energy to Douglas County Smart Energy. Formally called “Sunshot Solar in Your Community,” the award will offer technical assistance to DC Smart Energy and organizations it partnered with in Hood River and Lake County for the development of solar energy in our respective communities.

Since these grants were offered nationwide, we knew the competition would be fierce. But we believed the statewide partnership and spirit of cooperation would serve us well. And our faith has been rewarded. The development of solar will increase our energy independence, lower electricity costs, add new local jobs, increase tax revenue and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it will spur the development of new and innovative business and financial models.

What does this mean for Douglas County? At a minimum, we will develop three solar projects totaling 135 kilowatts. But since we received the grant, our goals have expanded considerably. We are in the early stages of exploring the possibility of a larger solar project. Our partners in Hood River and Lake County have adopted similar goals. Hood River is nearing completion of a 30-kilowatt solar array on their Public Works building, and Lakeview will be working on a 25-kilowatt solar array on its library.

How did this happen? Douglas County Smart Energy, a group consisting of the major utilities, nonprofits, businesses and citizen advocates, has been hard at work over the last three years promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency in our community. Our successful endeavors caught the eye of Sustainable Northwest, a nonprofit with the knowledge and expertise to secure grants to promote solar and other forms of renewable energy.

They had already been so impressed with our efforts that we were asked to host their renewable energy symposium here in Roseburg last fall. So they proposed we apply for the “Sunshot” grant in partnership with Hood River and Lake County. Here in Douglas County, we understand how important it is to work together to maximize limited resources. The proposal was a perfect fit on how we approach opportunities for the benefit of our community.

These are exciting times for Douglas County Smart Energy as we commit ourselves to promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency for the residents of our community. A good deal of the credit must go to our AmeriCorps RARE volunteer, Nicole Mandall. She has been invaluable in reaching out to the public regarding incentives and opportunities for money-saving energy efficiency investments. And she has been a key participant in our Sunshot project.

With Nicole’s year-long commitment to Douglas County coming to a close, DC Smart Energy had no assurance we would be offered another RARE volunteer for the coming year. Since more organizations were applying for this program, our chances for success were by no means certain. But we have once again been awarded a RARE volunteer through our fiscal agent, the United Community Action Network (UCAN). Essential to this successful application were the generous contributions of our numerous funders.

The coming year promises to be a notable one for DC Smart Energy as we build on the foundation we have laid and expand our horizons in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

This column is a monthly feature of Douglas County Smart Energy, a project of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition. For more information on energy efficiency and renewable energy, visit