ASU Energy Policy Innovation Council
Since 2010, Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord has helped her city become a leader in residential distributed generation solar installations. That year, Goodyear signed onto the Arizona SmartPower Solar Challenge, (led by Arizona SmartPower State Director Toni Bouchard and supported by APS), which encourages Arizona cities to install solar rooftop systems on at least 5 percent of their city’s owner-occupied homes by 2015. (See Fig. 1 for current Solar Challenge rankings). Signing on for the challenge stirred up community spirit; Mayor Lord explained that, “you know if they say it’s a community contest, you can guess what, we’re going to win it…so they said the magic words, ‘contest’, ‘competition’ …it was a worthwhile challenge.”
When Mayor Lord set a measurable, feasible goal for rooftop solar in Goodyear, she articulated clean energy generation as a community priority. Goodyear then managed to exceed that goal by more than double within just 2 years. This success can be attributed to a robust community engagement initiative called the Solar Ambassador program, outlined by the Challenge and immediately embraced by Mayor Lord.
The idea behind Solar Ambassadors
Solar Ambassadors are neighbors who have already installed solar in their homes and are happy to talk to other community members about their experience. Installing a rooftop solar system may sound daunting to a homeowner, but that perception can change when a neighbor tells you their reasons for installing the system and their experience over a cup of coffee in the homeowner’s kitchen. Goodyear currently has eighteen Solar Ambassador families who speak with interested neighbors about how and why they started the installation process. When a neighbor wants more information, the Ambassadors pass on contact information for AZ Smartpower, who can provide more information regarding specific benefits of solar power and a list of qualified solar installers.
How Goodyear has leveraged the Ambassador program
Once Goodyear signed up to take part in the Challenge, Mayor Lord drafted Goodyear resident and solar enthusiast Dru Bacon to lead the Goodyear Solar Ambassador program. Explaining the reason for their city’s leadership position, Mayor Lord admits Goodyear has a competitive advantage in Bacon. Until recently, he led the Arizona SmartPower Solar Ambassador program and, by his estimate, has articulated the benefits of solar technology and the installation process clearly and eloquently to thousands of people through his blog, community presentations and person-to-person conversations. (You can read one of Bacon’s blog posts breaking down the benefits of solar technology at AZCentral.com here.) “He’s been my resource on solar,” said Lord. “Once Dru took over, I stepped back and let [the program] take its course.” For other communities who want to follow in Goodyear’s footsteps, Mayor Lord recommends finding a version of Dru Bacon. “If you’ve got someone out in your community who is an expert, who loves it, go for it. We love those volunteers. We take no ownership, really it’s the community’s ownership in this.”
Setting a measureable clean energy goal
Harnessing the power of citizen knowledge and engagement
Goodyear is one of three Arizona cities that have more than doubled their 5 percent rooftop panel goal.* (the latest data show Buckeye has taken the lead in the Challenge with almost 13% of residential rooftops with solar installations).