Perry earns SolSmart Bronze through green building code, solar panels

Butch Niebuhr, right, longtime Perry city adminsitartor and now a consultant with Bolton and Menk Engineering, accepted Thursday in Pittsburgh, Penn., on behalf of the city of Perry the SolSmart Bronze award presented by SolSmart technicians Emily Sparks, left, and Zachary Greene. Photo courtesy Bolton and Menk

solsmart-logoThe city of Perry earned a bronze rating Nov. 17 from SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.

The rating was awarded at the National League of Cities conference in Pittsburgh, Penn., and recognizes Perry for taking important first steps to encourage solar energy growth.

The SolSmart bronze rating also brings Perry national recognition for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier and cheaper to go solar.

“A SolSmart designation is a signal that Perry is ‘open for solar business,’ helping to attract solar industry investment and generate economic development and local jobs,” said Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson. “This is all part of the city’s long-term initiative to become more sustainable through advancing opportunities for job growth and healthy living in the local economy.”

Peterson said Perry is punching above its weight with the SolSmart award when compared with other cities in the program, such as Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Mo., Santa Monica, Calif., and Denver, Colo. He said the bronze designation helps to make solar installation a more attractive and affordable option for Perry homes and businesses by lowering cost and removing barriers to setting up solar systems.

Perry earned the bronze rating in part by adopted a green building code for new house construction, which includes a streamlined permit process and low permit application fees for solar building, Peterson said.

“The City has set an example locally by installing a solar array on our Farmers’ Market Building at the Raccoon River Valley Trailhead complex,” Peterson said. “This array powers our Farmers Market vendors, our Parks and Rec maintenance building and an electric utility vehicle that is used in our parks.”

Butch Niebuhr, longtime Perry city administrator and now a consultant with Bolton and Menk, accepted the award on behalf of Perry at the Pittsburgh conference.

“The City of Perry is very proud if its Caboose Park and Farmers Market photovoltaic solar installation,” Niebuhr said, “which offsets electricity costs for market vendors as well as for the Parks and Recreation Department. This solar installation was banking enough solar credits because of a net metering tariff that the city could start using an all-electric John Deere Gator for Parks and Recreation maintenance activities that effectively recharges using electricity produced from the solar array.”

As a bronze designee, Perry now has the opportunity earn additional points to qualify as silver or gold in the DOE program. The SolSmart program also brings Perry no-cost technical assistance from a nationwide team of solar-energy experts in order to help the city achieve further solar goals.

Niebuhr said Perry aims to increase the energy efficiency improvements at city facilities and “has a grand vision to provide PV solar to all their facilities, effectively making the city government facilities net zero in terms of electrical energy from the grid.”

In order to achieve the bronze, silver or gold designations, cities and counties take steps to reduce solar “soft costs,” which are non-hardware costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. Examples of soft costs include planning and zoning, permitting, financing, customer acquisition and installation labor.

Soft costs now represent roughly two-thirds of the total price of an installed residential system, according to solar industry estimates. Reducing these costs can lead to savings that are passed on to consumers.


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