SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, is recognizing seven new cities and counties for making it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. These communities will be honored today at the National League of Cities City Summit in Pittsburgh, PA.
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. Communities receive designation for adopting programs and practices that help reduce costs and make solar more accessible for residents and businesses.
Today, one community received a SolSmart Silver designation: Indianapolis, Indiana. Six communities received a SolSmart Bronze designation: Charleston County, South Carolina; Inyo County, California; Perry, Iowa; Orlando, Florida; Pinecrest, Florida; and West Hollywood, California.
In addition, two communities previously designated SolSmart Bronze moved up to the SolSmart Gold designation: Claremont, California and Redwood City, California. Indianapolis also received special recognition for solar-friendly planning, zoning, and development.
“We congratulate these new SolSmart designees for making it easier for local residents and businesses to go solar,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “By making solar energy more affordable and accessible, these cities and counties are setting an example for the nation.”
“The good work that local governments undertake day-to-day often happens under the radar,” said Robert J. O’Neill, Jr, Executive Director of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). “It is wonderful to see the Department of Energy recognize the accomplishments of these outstanding communities.”
To achieve designation, these cities and counties took 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. For example, Inyo County, California developed an expedited permitting process for small-scale solar energy systems and instituted a small-scale solar friendly zoning ordinance.
“The City of Orlando is dedicated to becoming a leader in solar energy in the Sunshine State,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We recently launched the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to give our residents and businesses more funding options to make clean energy upgrades like solar to their property. The SolSmart Bronze designation signifies our strong commitment and will encourage more business owners and residents to use renewable solar energy to further our goal of making Orlando one of the most sustainable cities in America.”
“Cities are setting the example with innovative programs that encourage local solar development,” said National League of Cities CEO and Executive director Clarence E. Anthony. “Dedication to clean energy at the local level has promoted investment and created new jobs in communities all across the country. NLC congratulates the new SolSmart designated communities for their groundbreaking work and the example they set for many other cities to follow.”
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.
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 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,” said Danielle Bentz, Deputy Director, Policy, Electricity & Markets at 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.”
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.