Congratulations New SolSmart Designees!

This week, SolSmart officially designated seven new cities and counties for making solar energy more affordable and accessible -- and three other communities moved from SolSmart Bronze to Silver or Gold.

Here are the communities that received designation:

  • New York City and Louisville, Kentucky both received the highest designation of SolSmart Gold. Denver, Colorado, previously designated SolSmart Bronze, moved to the Gold designation as well.
  • Charleston County, South Carolina and Pinecrest, Florida were designated SolSmart Silver after previously receiving the Bronze designation.
  • Three cities were designated SolSmart Bronze: Moab, Utah; Plano Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Two counties also received the Bronze designation: Maricopa County, Arizona and Summit County, Utah.

The National League of Cities honored the designated cities and towns this week at its Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. (See pictures of some of the designees below!) The National Association of Counties also honored the two counties receiving designation at a recent Washington, D.C. legislative conference, where Charleston County was featured in a panel discussion.

A total of 36 communities have now received SolSmart designation since the program was launched in 2016, representing 21.8 million people in 18 states. SolSmart designation recognizes communities for taking steps to reduce the cost of solar energy and becoming “open for solar business.”

The SolSmart technical assistance team is working with local governments to cut red tape and ensure that local programs and practices encourage solar energy development -- so that many more communities will receive designation very soon. Municipalities and counties can begin the process by responding to this email or visiting SolSmart.org.

Here’s what local officials and solar companies are saying about the new designees:

“We are thrilled to achieve Gold designation in the SolSmart program. Solar power has become very cost effective and our citizens are eager to harness the sun’s energy in their homes and businesses. Through participating in the SolSmart program, we now have a clear-cut process for permitting and installing solar panels.” -- Maria Koetter, Director of the Louisville Metro Office of Sustainability

“The SolSmart Gold designation recognizes that New York City is a great place for solar companies to do business. When we entered the city’s solar market in 2002, we identified plenty of barriers, including unruly regulations, high system costs, and a lack of customer awareness. We have worked with the City University of New York and other installers and advocacy groups over the years to identify and erase many of the hurdles related to permitting, interconnection, and customer uptake. Today, New York City is one of the largest, most advanced solar markets in the country.” -- David Buckner, President of Solar Energy Systems, LLC

“Cities are leading the way on solar deployment and driving our country toward a sustainable future. As a proud SolSmart partner, the National League of Cities congratulates the new designees on their achievement and we look forward to empowering more communities to expand their local solar markets.” -- Matt Zone, president of the National League of Cities and councilmember on the Cleveland City Council

 
Plano, TX accepts SolSmart Bronze designation. Pictured: Mayor Pro Tem Lissa Smith with SolSmart staff.

Plano, TX accepts SolSmart Bronze designation. Pictured: Mayor Pro Tem Lissa Smith with SolSmart staff.

 
 
Salt Lake City accepts SolSmart Bronze designation. Pictured: Councilmembers Derek Kitchen and Erin Mendenhall.

Salt Lake City accepts SolSmart Bronze designation. Pictured: Councilmembers Derek Kitchen and Erin Mendenhall.

 
 
New York City accepts SolSmart Gold designation. Pictured: Henry Greenidge, Office of the Mayor, with SolSmart staff.

New York City accepts SolSmart Gold designation. Pictured: Henry Greenidge, Office of the Mayor, with SolSmart staff.

 
 
Denver accepts SolSmart Gold designation. Pictured: Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman.

Denver accepts SolSmart Gold designation. Pictured: Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman.

 

Important New Information for Counties

We have some important information to share for county governments pursuing a SolSmart designation. First, we have established a Modified Designation Pathway that county governments may use to achieve designation. Second, the National Association of Counties (NACo) is announcing a Member Challenge Campaign for county governments that apply to join SolSmart by May 31.

Modified Designation Pathway 

SolSmart recognizes the important role counties can play in influencing their constituent communities. While several counties, including Inyo County, CA, and Charleston County, SC, have been successfully designated through our existing Standard Designation Pathway, we understand that not all counties have control over key elements required for SolSmart designation -- such as permitting, planning and zoning, and inspection processes.

That’s why SolSmart is rolling out a Modified Designation Pathway, to make sure that all counties are able to participate and achieve designation. However, counties that would prefer to continue using the Standard Designation Pathway are free to do so.

The Modified Designation Pathway is divided into Prerequisites and four Special Focus Categories: Solar Rights; Utility Engagement; Community Engagement; and Market Development and Finance.

For SolSmart Bronze, counties must complete four prerequisites, and achieve 40 points overall from actions taken in any combination of Special Focus Categories. For SolSmart Silver, counties achieve an additional Silver prerequisite beyond those required for Bronze designation, and achieve 80 points overall from actions taken in any combination of Special Focus Categories. For SolSmart Gold, counties must achieve all Silver criteria and 150 points overall from actions taken in any combination of Special Focus Categories.

Prerequisites

1.     Solar Statement committing to achieving SolSmart designation, tracking key metrics, and outlining community solar goals.

2.     Provide guidance on planning, zoning and development best practices to communities in the county through webinars, in-person meetings, one-on-one calls or trainings.

3.     Collaborate with local inspection departments to develop an inspection checklist for the region, and share results publicly through webinars, in-person meetings, training and/or the county’s website. Encourage communities to integrate the checklist into their inspection processes.

4.     Host regional training or discussion on best practices in permitting for communities in the county.

5.     Incorporate solar into county-wide comprehensive plans and/or economic development plans, including quantifiable targets or metrics. (Required for Silver)

If you are unsure what type of designation pathway makes the most sense for your community, please request a consultation call. We look forward to assisting your county achieve SolSmart designation to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for your residents to install solar energy systems. Please contact us at solsmart@solarfound.org with any questions or concerns.

NACo Member Challenge Campaign

NACo has announced the 2017 SolSmart County Challenge, a new national competition for counties to showcase their support for solar energy.

The SolSmart County Challenge will run for five weeks, from Wednesday, March 1, until Wednesday, May 31. Counties can join the challenge by completing the Intake Form through either the Standard Designation Pathway or Modified Designation Pathway.

Two counties -- the one with highest verified points totals from the standard designation pathway and the one with the highest verified points from the modified designation pathway -- will receive prizes.

Prizes

The prizes for the two winners of the SolSmart County Challenge include:

●      Travel reimbursement for NACo Annual Conference & Exposition, July 21-24, Franklin County, Columbus, Ohio;

●      Presentation opportunity on a future NACo Webinar and Podcast on SolSmart

●      Recognition in NACo communication platforms including County News, NACo e-blast, NACo Blog, Resilient Counties newsletter, and social media.

●      SolSmart County Challenge Winning Certificate

If you have any questions about the SolSmart Member Challenge, please contact us at solsmart@solarfound.org.

New County Governments Become SolSmart!

This week, at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, SolSmart was proud to recognize new county governments achieving SolSmart designation. Maricopa County, Arizona and Summit County, Utah were designated SolSmart Bronze, while Charleston County, South Carolina, was upgraded from a SolSmart Bronze designation to SolSmart Silver.

These designations show that county governments have done the hard work to make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. Solar is a rapidly growing industry that was responsible for 1 in every 50 new U.S. jobs in 2016, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2016. By cutting red tape and reducing obstacles to solar energy development, these counties are clearing the way for more economic growth and new jobs.

A total of 31 communities have now been recognized as SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze. Congratulations to these counties!

SolSmart staff (left) presents Maricopa County, AZ Supervisor Steve Gallardo (right) with a Bronze SolSmart panel to commemorate the county’s designation.

SolSmart staff (left) presents Maricopa County, AZ Supervisor Steve Gallardo (right) with a Bronze SolSmart panel to commemorate the county’s designation.

Summit County, UT Sustainability Manager Lisa Yoder (left) receives a Bronze SolSmart panel for the county’s achievements.

Summit County, UT Sustainability Manager Lisa Yoder (left) receives a Bronze SolSmart panel for the county’s achievements.

SolSmart staff (middle) presents Charleston County, SC staff – Kevin Limehouse (left) and Carter McMillan (right) – with an upgraded SolSmart panel to recognize the county’s achievement of moving from Bronze to Silver designation.

SolSmart staff (middle) presents Charleston County, SC staff – Kevin Limehouse (left) and Carter McMillan (right) – with an upgraded SolSmart panel to recognize the county’s achievement of moving from Bronze to Silver designation.

Register Now! Two FREE SolSmart Minnesota Solar Permitting Workshops

The SolSmart program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory present two FREE in-person workshops in Minnesota for current and prospective SolSmart communities. The first workshop will take place March 7, 2017 in Duluth, MN, followed by the second workshop, March, 8, 2017, in Minneapolis, MN. These workshops will provide participants an interactive discussion on solar, storage, and permitting as well as demonstrate how improving local solar processes can benefit communities.

Overview
Local government staff from permitting, inspection, and building departments are invited to attend these special workshops on solar, storage, and permitting best practices. Workshop participants will learn from national solar experts, make connections with their peers, and have the opportunity to receive one-on-one consultations to review SolSmart permitting criteria, specific community pathways to designation, and additional resources.

Workshop Information
All workshop training sessions are FREE of charge and open to local government staff, current SolSmart participants, and prospective SolSmart communities. Registration is accepted on a first come, first serve basis; however, preference will be given to current and prospective SolSmart communities. Topics will include: 1) Solar & Permitting Best Practices and 2) Storage & Permitting Best Practices.

REGISTRATION CLOSES FEBRUARY 27, 2017. 

Please Note: Completion of either of these two workshops helps SolSmart communities achieve criteria critical for SolSmart designation.

Reserve your spot today! Register below:

Workshop #1 : SolSmart Duluth Solar Permitting Workshop
Hosted by the City of Duluth, MN
When: Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - 8:30a - 3:00p Central Time Zone
Where: Duluth City Hall (Room 303) - 411 West 1st Street, Duluth, MN 55802
Capacity: 30 Registrants
DOWNLOAD AGENDA

Workshop #2 : SolSmart Twin Cities Solar Permitting Workshop
Hosted by the City of Minneapolis, MN
When: Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 8:30a - 3:00p Central Time Zone
Where: Currie Maintenance Facility - 1200 Currie Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Capacity: 48 Registrants
DOWNLOAD AGENDA

Announcing the first round of SolSmart Advisors!

SolSmart is excited to announce that 11 communities will be hosting SolSmart Advisors, experienced professionals who will help these communities cut red tape and reduce the cost of going solar.

Municipalities, counties, and regional organizations applied to host the advisors through a competitive process. Communities were selected based on their potential to benefit from the in-depth technical assistance the advisors will provide to encourage solar energy growth. After completing a training in Washington, D.C., the advisors will work in the communities as full-time staff members for up to six months.

“Local governments have the tools to make an enormous impact on solar energy growth in their communities. This provides new energy choices for consumers while encouraging economic development and new jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “The SolSmart Advisors will use their professional expertise to help make these communities open for solar business.”

The SolSmart Advisors have experience in fields such as public policy, local government, and environmental and energy consulting. They will provide hands-on technical assistance to help communities evaluate programs and practices that impact the ability of solar companies to do business, such as planning and zoning, permitting, and inspection.

Since the program launched in 2016, SolSmart has designated 29 cities and counties as Gold, Silver, or Bronze. With the help of the advisors, these 11 communities will work to achieve SolSmart designation as soon as possible.

“The SolSmart Advisors program will provide Oklahoma City with the ability to develop its solar sector in a way that drives educational opportunities, job creation, technological innovation, and sustainable growth and development,” said David Brent Grantham, founder at RedwoodAdaptive and the SolSmart Advisor for Oklahoma City. “I look forward to advising the city’s Office of Sustainability and other stakeholders as we begin to identify, design, and implement the best permitting, planning, market development, and financial opportunities introduced in this process.”

The eleven communities that are receiving SolSmart Advisors are as follows:

 

Colorado

Communities: City of Lafayette, Adams County

 

Georgia

Community: City of Atlanta

 

Massachusetts

Community: Metropolitan Area Planning Council

 

Michigan and Indiana

Community: Michiana Area Council of Governments

 

Minnesota (Central)

Community: Metropolitan Council

Partner: Great Plains Institute

 

Minnesota (Northern)

Community: City of Duluth

 

North Carolina

Communities: Town of Chapel Hill, Town of Carrboro, Orange County

Partner: North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center

 

Oklahoma

Community: City of Oklahoma City

 

Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Community: Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

 

Rhode Island

Community: City of Providence

 

Virginia

Communities: City of Charlottesville, Abermarle County

 

If you or your community is interested in how you can take part in the SolSmart Program, please go to http://www.gosparc.org/program-information/ to find out more information. 

Host a SolSmart Advisor in Your Community

SolSmart is happy to announce the next opportunity to host a SolSmart Advisor. SolSmart Advisors are program-funded, temporary staff members that will work in your community for approximately six months – which equates to hundreds of hours of additional technical assistance. These experienced and highly-trained individuals will collaborate with staff and elected officials to assist your community in addressing its solar goals on the path toward SolSmart designation. Applications to host an Advisor are due by January 31, 2017.

The Solar Foundation will host two webinars to explain the application process at the following times:

  • Thursday, December 15, at 2:00pm ET
  • Wednesday, January 4, at 2:00pm ET

We encourage your community to register for one of the webinars. Follow this link to find out more about the SolSmart Advisor application process and application criteria.

If you would like to schedule a consultation call, please contact James Schroll at jschroll@solarfound.org. We hope you will consider pursuing this exciting opportunity by applying to host an Advisor by January 31.