‘Open For Solar Business’: Dozens Of U.S. Communities Are Cutting Red Tape

The SolSmart program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, has recognized 22 more communities across the country with gold, silver and bronze designations for encouraging solar market growth.

Fifty-eight communities in 25 states have now achieved designation under SolSmart, a national program launched in April 2016 that recognizes cities and counties for lowering barriers to solar energy development. Representing more than 29 million people, these cities and counties are cutting red tape to reduce the cost of solar energy at the local level and become “open for solar business.”

The SolSmart designation team, led by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), awards communities points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers. SolSmart’s team of national solar experts, led by The Solar Foundation, offers no-cost technical assistance to help participating cities and counties achieve designation.

“In just one year, 58 communities have demonstrated national leadership by making it faster, easier and cheaper to go solar,” says Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “These cities and counties are installing new solar capacity, reducing interconnection times, streamlining permitting requirements, and reducing the cost of solar for homes and businesses, opening the door to tremendous job growth and economic expansion.”

Nine new communities have achieved the highest designation of SolSmart Gold: Atlanta,; Beaverton, Ore.; Davis, Calif.; El Paso, Texas; Hillsboro, Ore.; Huntington Beach, Calif.; Madison, Wis.; Washington, D.C.; and Ypsilanti, Mich.

Two new communities have been designated SolSmart Silver: Ames, Iowa; and Oro Valley, Ariz.

Eleven new communities have been designated SolSmart Bronze: Carrboro, N.C.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; Charlottesville, Va.; Cupertino, Calif.; Dartmouth, Mass.; Lincoln, Neb.; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Natick, Mass.; Orange County, N.C.; Raymore, Mo.; and San Antonio.

In addition, four more communities have achieved SolSmart Gold after they were previously designated silver or bronze: Charleston County, S.C.; Philadelphia; Saint Paul, Minn.; and Somerville, Mass.

Local governments achieve SolSmart designation by evaluating programs and practices, such as permitting, planning and zoning, in order to reduce obstacles to solar energy development and pass cost savings on to consumers.

For example, Atlanta, a SolSmart Gold-designated city, developed a process to approve certain solar permit applications over the counter; proposed a solar-plus-storage project on an urban farm; launched a solar landing page on the city’s sustainability website; and created a streamlined permitting pathway for small solar systems.

“The City of Atlanta is proud to receive the SolSmart Gold designation in recognition of our path-breaking leadership with solar energy,” says Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “We launched the Solar Atlanta program in 2015 and are now installing solar panels on 28 municipal buildings, saving money and reducing our carbon emissions. With our new, streamlined permitting process, we are also sending the message that solar works for our residents and property owners.”

SolSmart Silver-designated city Ames, Iowa, created an interactive map to share solar information with the public; encouraged solar projects on community facilities; provided clear guidance for solar in historic and special use districts; and provided intensive cross-training to permitting and inspection staff.

SolSmart Bronze-designated city San Antonio developed an online solar permitting process; installed solar on public facilities, including the San Antonio International Airport; and created incentives through the local utility to make solar more affordable.

A list of all SolSmart designees and further details on actions the communities took to achieve designation are available here. SolSmart aims to designate at least 300 communities over the course of the three-year program.



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