Letter written just five days after Brown became governor

Gov. Kate BrownEven though she has been on the job for less than a month, the city of Hillsboro’s accelerating efforts to be a regional leader in the promotion of green energy sources has not gone unnoticed by Gov. Kate Brown.

In a letter to Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey, Brown praised the city’s efforts to find innovative ways to tap into solar power. Brown’s letter — dated Feb. 23, just five days after she was sworn in as Oregon’s new governor — expressed appreciation for the Hillsboro City Council’s vote in January to request U.S. Department of Energy designation as a “Northwest Solar Community.”

The designation is in recognition of the city’s efforts to promote solar energy by making solar rooftop systems easier and more affordable for residents and businesses in the community.

“I am pleased to congratulate your city on being recognized as a Solar Friendly Community,” Brown wrote. “This is a great achievement, and acknowledges your commitment to pursuing clean energy policies, programs and practices.”

Brown went on to point out there are many benefits to investing in solar power systems.

“Solar energy investments will create good local jobs, diversify the energy system, reduce global warming pollution and produce energy where it is used,” her letter read. “By partnering with the Northwest Solar Communities initiative, your community has brought together local government, utilities and stakeholders in order to create a jurisdiction that is ‘Open for Solar Business.’

“The city of Hillsboro serves as an inspiration to Oregon, and I thank you and your community for taking the actions necessary to make solar deployment a reality, thereby clearing a path so that others may follow.”

The letter was a pleasant surprise for city officials.

“We appreciate Gov. Brown taking the time to recognize the city of Hillsboro’s ongoing efforts to promote solar energy,” said Willey. “I especially enjoyed her comments that we in Hillsboro are serving as an inspiration to Oregon, and clearing a path so that others may follow.”

“We are very pleased with the recognition from the new governor’s office,” added Peter Brandom, Hillsboro’s sustainability manager. “The tangible benefits lie more in our work on the grant than in the recognition itself, but the extended benefit comes when more folks become aware of the benefits of solar energy and we continue to expand solar in Hillsboro.”

Solar is especially important in the Hillsboro area, because SolarWorld — a solar panel manufacturer that employs hundreds of workers — is based in Hillsboro.

“We are fortunate to be in a position to support our local solar panel manufacturer, SolarWorld, and the many SolarWorld employees who call Hillsboro home,” Willey said.

Brandom pointed out that Hillsboro was recently selected as one of the first communities to gain access to MapDwell, an online tool that, for no charge, allows property owners to quickly assess the solar potential and costs of a rooftop system on any building.

“The letter certainly does help reinforce our focus on green energy as well as our particular local economy,” Brandom said. “The interest in solar continues to increase, and we want to help make the systems as affordable as possible for our community.”

Steve Callaway, a member of the Hillsboro City Council and a supporter of green power, was gratified to hear of the recognition from the governor.

“I’m delighted,” he said. “Here we are, the governor is in her first week in office and what is one of the first things she notices? The city of Hillsboro. It’s a very clear reminder that Hillsboro is in the forefront.”

Callaway noted that solar power development is very popular in Hillsboro, and citizens often mention it as a priority when they comment on long-range community planning efforts such as the Hillsboro 2020 and Hillsboro 2035 action plans.

“When I talk to folks, there are three things I hear a lot: Google Fiber, schools, and solar,” Callaway said. “We need to be making sure we are making solar as accessible and affordable as we can. Gov. Brown’s letter reinforces what we already know in Hillsboro and Washington County.”

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