Making Talent More Energy Efficient

Article in the Mail Tribune

TALENT — A group of Talent residents working to make it easier for schools, governments, residents and businesses to save energy and use clean energy sources are putting on a fall workshop to discuss energy solutions that are working in other communities. Rogue Climate Talent will put on a daylong workshop Oct. 24 at the Talent Community Center with help from Sustainable Northwest and the Lake County Resource Initiative. Rogue Climate Talent also will put on a "Clean Energy Market" at the Talent Skate Park Sept. 11 in conjunction with Talent's regular Friday-evening market.

Rogue Climate Talent is one of six community efforts from across the state selected for Sustainable Northwest’s “Making Energy Work in Rural Oregon” program, which offers workshops to help implement renewable energy and energy-efficient projects.Talent residents formed the group in March under the umbrella of nonprofit Rogue Climate. Shortly afterward, the city’s Together for Talent Committee joined with the group.“Rogue Climate had quite a few volunteers who live in Talent. It seems that Talent is a community that is ready for us to start in,” said Hannah Sohl, director of Rogue Climate. “Residents in Talent are really engaged.”RCT has held five "living-room conversations" in neighborhoods, with about 40 residents, to determine energy concerns and perceptions. It also is conducting a community survey, asking people about energy trends they are seeing in the Rogue Valley, with about 100 responses so far.Workshop goals are to deliver tools and knowledge for communities’ energy futures. These may include identifying energy-related projects that can save money, create jobs and help the environment; setting energy saving and generation goals; and connecting with energy experts. Rogue Climate Talent meets every other week. About 15 people attend the meetings, doing research or surveying, said Sohl. Sustainable Northwest is helping with workshop planning. The group also selected Klamath Falls, Hood River, John Day, Dufur and Douglas County for the program this year. “The idea is how can we promote and share the best practices with other rural communities, practices that Lake County and Wallowa County have done,” said Lee Rahr, energy program director with Sustainable Northwest. Lake County Resource Initiative is a model for what rural communities can do, said Rahr. Formed in 2008, the coalition has created 7.5 megawatts of solar projects in Lake County (with another 100 megawatts in the planning stages), developed a geothermal plant at Paisley and instituted 22 energy projects estimated to save $1.9 million over the life of the equipment. “If Lake County can do this, anyone can do this, but you need a champion and you need a vision,” said Rahr. Sohl’s involvement in the project was one of the factors that led to Talent's selection, Rahr said. “She has a lot of participants at the table; nonprofits, the mayor, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments is interested,” said Rahr. “There is abundant opportunity here. That’s one of the reasons why I signed the application for this workshop,” said Mayor Darby Stricker. “It is my hope that we can find our way to employ some of the strategies that Lake County has. It just makes sense they have something to offer.” Talent’s new Community Center building was pre-wired and structurally designed to support solar panels. The workshop might help lead to collaboration to install solar, Stricker said.

For more information, see www.rogueclimate.org/rogue_climate_talent.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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