The SolSmart program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, has recognized 22 city and county communities across the country with gold, silver, and bronze designations for encouraging solar market growth.
These 22 communities are the first to receive SolSmart designations since the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and The Solar Foundation launched the federally funded program in April. A SolSmart designation signals that a community is “open for solar business,” helping to attract solar industry investment and generate economic development and local jobs. SolSmart aims to designate 300 communities during the three-year program.
The 14 communities receiving SolSmart Gold designation include Austin, Texas; City of Boulder, Colo.; Columbia, Mo.; Fremont, Calif.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Gladstone, Mo.; Hartford, Conn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Minneapolis, Minn.; San Carlos, Calif.; Santa Monica, Calif.; Santa Rosa, Calif.; and Satellite Beach, Fla.
The one community receiving SolSmart Silver designation is Boulder County, Colo.
The seven communities receiving SolSmart Bronze designation include Burlington, Vt.; Claremont, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Redwood City, Calif.; Saint Paul, Minn.; and Somerville, Mass.
“The communities receiving SolSmart designation are now well positioned to attract new solar businesses and take advantage of the dramatic job growth we’ve seen in the industry,” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “We hope many more cities and counties will be encouraged to join SolSmart and help even more homes and businesses go solar.”
“The good work that local governments undertake day-to-day often happens under the radar,” added ICMA Executive Director Robert J. O’Neill, Jr. “It is wonderful to see the Department of Energy recognize the accomplishments of these outstanding communities.”
To achieve designation, 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. According to ICMA and The Solar Foundation, soft costs now represent roughly two-thirds of the total price of an installed residential system, and reducing these costs leads to savings that are passed on to consumers.
“We are honored that Kansas City is among the first in the nation to receive the SolSmart Gold designation,” said Troy Schulte, city manager of Kansas City. “Expanding solar energy not only helps fight climate change, but also attracts more entrepreneurs to the city while creating new jobs. A SolSmart designation shows that our city is truly on the cutting edge of clean energy development nationwide.”
“Denver is proud to be a national solar leader, and we look forward to building on our achievements as one of the nation’s first participants in the SolSmart program,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Going solar – saving money, energy and the environment – in Denver should be accessible to every community and every household, and with this partnership, we will help to make that a reality.”
The SolSmart designation team, led by ICMA, awards communities points based on the actions they take to reduce soft costs and other barriers to going solar. Based on the number of points they receive, communities are designated either gold, silver or bronze. Cities and counties receiving a silver or bronze designation will have the opportunity to increase their point total and move up to the gold tier in the future.
As part of the program, a team of national solar experts led by The Solar Foundation offers no-cost technical assistance to help participating cities and counties achieve designation. Communities can also apply to host SolSmart Advisors, fully-funded temporary staff members who provide personalized, hands-on assistance to communities for periods of up to six months. The first round of communities selected to host SolSmart Advisors will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Local governments can make a huge difference in encouraging solar industry growth,” commented Danielle Bentz, a policy leader at national installer SolarCity. “A SolSmart designation shows that a city or county is committed to lowering costs and reducing barriers to solar. That’s good news for a community that wants to grow their economy by deploying clean energy.”
“These SolSmart-designated communities are setting an example for the rest of the country,” said Robert Shanklin, president and COO of Brightergy, a Kansas City-based energy company.
According to ICMA and The Solar Foundation, all U.S. cities and counties are eligible to join SolSmart and receive no-cost technical assistance to receive designation. Communities can begin the process by visiting SolSmart.org.