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Opening Keynote - Saving the World Through Watershed Function: Insights from the PV-SMaRT Project

Wednesday, February 16, 2022
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM

Water quality and… solar energy? It’s not exactly chocolate and peanut butter. But the Photovoltaic Stormwater Management Research and Testing (see? PV-SMaRT) project looks at exactly such a combination and demonstrates the value of looking beyond compliance in stormwater and water quality regulation. In the end, it’s not about meeting design storm standards or installing best management practices; it’s about saving the world.

Large-scale solar development is a new and rapidly growing land use that is a critical component of addressing the climate crisis, but poses unique risks and opportunities in the stormwater and water quality world. Indeed, some solar projects have resulted in spectacular water quality failures. But the opportunity for creating “co-benefits” in water quality and habitat is also remarkable. Can we use the solar development opportunity to create value in our watersheds and our eco-systems, and our agricultural systems, in addition to transforming our energy systems?

Erosion and sediment control professionals strive to protect our valuable soil and water resources. But focusing on regulatory thresholds leads to a compliance mentality that misses the forest for the trees. Should we instead be asking how, in the watershed, we can make development function like a forest? If we restore watershed functions, create new habitat and build soil health… is it a solar farm, or green infrastructure?

Learning Objectives:
  • To apply the best practice tools of soil and erosion control to create win-win opportunities in development.
  • To understand the scope of water quality opportunity in large-scale solar development, if sited and designed to capture benefits.
  • Look beyond regulatory compliance and toward a “co-benefits” approach to development and water quality design and regulation.

Keynote Speakers

Rob Davis
Connexus Energy

Rob Davis is communications lead at Connexus Energy and chair of the advisory committee to the National Renewable Energy Lab's InSPIRE study into low-impact and agriculturally innovative solar. Davis’ work on pollinator-friendly solar has been featured in trainings by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; in feature stories in Fast Company and Scientific American, and a talk titled “This unlikely 1960s space tech can help save the bees,” on Previously, Davis helped launch technology start-ups and created the international crowdsourced campaign that launched the Firefox web browser. He is a graduate of Macalester College.

Brian Ross, AICP, LEED GA
Great Plains Institute

Brian Ross, AICP, LEED GA, is a Vice President at the Great Plains Institute, leading GPI’s renewable energy market transformation efforts in the Midwest and nationally. Brian joined the institute after 20 years as a consultant working with local, regional, and state governments on sustainable development, climate, and energy planning, policy, and regulation. He has worked with dozens of communities across the Midwest and east coast, helping communities become leaders in transforming energy systems. He now manages development of solar/water quality best practices for the national PV-SMaRT project, and the national Water Quality Task Force overseeing the project. Brian also directs GPI’s technical assistance for the national SolSmart certification program for local governments and helps lead national research efforts on integrating renewable energy development with natural systems and agriculture.

Jennifer Daw, PE, CEM, LEED AP
Senior Researcher

Jennnifer Daw is a Professional Engineer, Certified Energy Manager, and LEED AP. She works as a Senior Researcher and Group Manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. Her over 20 years of domestic and international experience ranges from analysis and decision support to management and implementation of projects in the U.S. and developing countries. Jennifer spent the first ten years of her career working exclusively with water and wastewater utilities in the U.S. and Australia performing work that ranged from system modeling and analysis, to design and construction, asset management, and capital planning. Her work at NREL focuses on the integration of energy and water systems, energy-water-food nexus analysis, policy, and strategy development, policy and project development for low carbon pathways, climate mitigation and resiliency planning.