GEORGETOWN — The City of Georgetown has been awarded one-million dollars by the Bloomberg Philanthropies U.S. Mayors Challenge.
The City joins a list of eight other cities including Denver, CO, Durham, NC, Fort Collins, CO, Huntington, WV, Los Angeles, CA, New Rochelle, NY, Philadelphia, PA, and South Bend, IN.
Georgetown competed in the yearlong contest that gave city leaders a chance to think outside of the box when coming up with ways to confront tough problems faced by cities including homelessness, the opioid crisis, mobility, climate change, and economic opportunity.
The City's victory came from their innovative approach to developing a "virtual power plant."
"For a million dollars, we can add seven to nine batteries on the ground and outfit 10 to 23 homes with solar panels," said Jackson Daly, assistant to the city manager.
The City said it is looking to lease rooftop space on residential and commercial properties to install solar panels that will generate enough energy to offset the need to purchase power from outside sources.
"You are monetizing something that's just sitting there," Daly explained. "You would get $10 to $20 per month for leasing your rooftop, or you would get backup power in cases of emergency or when the power goes out."
The City currently has data on every rooftop in Georgetown. The plan is to contact customers who lease out their rooftops for solar panels by the middle of the year in 2019.
“Last year, the Georgetown City Council adopted a new vision statement: Georgetown: A caring community honoring our past and innovating for the future. Like all cities, we know in this radically changing world we need to be agile and innovative to remain sustainable, competitive, and resilient,” Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross said. “Bloomberg’s iterative approach helped us engage with the public in a way that dramatically improved our idea. With Bloomberg’s support, we’ve developed a model with greater community support and better financial viability. We look forward to making the ‘virtual power plant’ a reality.”
The City stated they are the first and largest city in Texas to get 100 percent of its purchased power from renewable sources, but there are cost uncertainties and reliability concerns when transporting this energy over long distances. The City said this plan will help steady some of those uncertainties.
Before winning the one-million dollars, Georgetown went through a six-month period where they were able to test and build their idea.
“The process the City has undergone to test this idea is counterintuitive to how we typically work. Bloomberg’s iterative approach allowed us to present a rough outline of an idea and solicit public feedback that dramatically shifted the concept,” said Daly. “This pivot helped us structure a new concept that had greater community support and better financial viability. Already the City is using the “test and learn” method in other programs like our ridesharing pilot and the update of our comprehensive plan.”