New Communities to Host SolSmart Advisors

SolSmart is happy to announce new communities ready to host the second round of SolSmart Advisors, experienced professionals who will aid these communities in reducing costs and facilitating the growth of solar energy.

Working in the communities for approximately six months, SolSmart Advisors provide no-cost, hands-on technical assistance in communities that are selected through a competitive process based on their potential to benefit from the Advisors’ assistance.

Through their experience in public policy, energy consulting, or local government, and after completing training in Washington, D.C., the Advisors work full-time with cities and counties to help them implement changes that will open their communities for solar business.

We announced the first round of Advisors in January serving 11 communities, and these Advisors are now close to completing their work. The cities and counties they work in are now well on their way to achieving SolSmart designation, and several will be announced in the coming weeks.

The second round will include not only individual Advisors, but also organizations that will provide technical assistance on a team basis.

The organizations serving as Advisors include:

Sustainable CUNY

Serving between eight and ten communities throughout New York State, including Clifton Park, Erie County, Huntington, North Hempstead, Warwick (town), and Warwick (village).

Great Plains Institute

Serving Minnesota communities including Stearns County, Pine City, Chisago County, Hutchinson, Austin, St. Francis, Grand Rapids, and Rochester; and the Iowa communities Linn County and Cedar Rapids.

Spark Northwest (formerly Northwest SEED)

Serving Washington State communities including Bellevue, Edmonds, Mercer Island, Langley, Issaquah, and King County.

COSEIA

Serving approximately ten individual local governments in Colorado.

CT Green Bank

Serving Connecticut communities including Coventry, Fairfield, Hamden, Hartford, Middletown, and Stratford.

Montana Renewable Energy Association

Serving Montana communities including Missoula (city), Missoula County, Bozeman, Whitefish, and Helena.

Metropolitan Mayor’s Caucus

Including approximately one dozen local governments in the metropolitan Chicago area.

Midwest Renewable Energy Association

Including the following Wisconsin communities: Ashland City, Bayfield, Ashland County, Bayfield County, Eau Claire, and Wisconsin Rapids; and Johnson County, Iowa.

Mid-America Regional Council

Serving at least ten individual local governments in Missouri and Kansas.

North Central Texas Council of Governments

Including the following Texas communities: Cedar Hill, Denton, and Kennedale.

These communities or groups of communities are receiving individual advisors:

South Florida Communities

Including Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Lantana, and Delray Beach.

Northern Middlesex Council of Governments

Including the following Massachusetts communities: Chelmsford, Dracut, Lowell, Pepperell, Tewksbury, and Tyngsborough.

Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council

Including the following Ohio communities: Athens, Somerset, Amesville, and Athens County.

Northern Virginia Regional Commission

Including the following Virginia communities: Fairfax (city), Alexandria, and Arlington County.

58 Communities in 25 States Are Now "Open for Solar Business"

Just over a year after the SolSmart program launched, 58 communities in 25 states have achieved designation as "open for solar business." 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.

You can see a map and list of all SolSmart designees here.

Today, SolSmart is announcing the latest 22 new designations at the American Planning Association National Planning Conference in New York City. We're excited and proud to recognize what they've achieved.

Nine new communities achieved the highest designation of SolSmart Gold: Atlanta, Georgia; Beaverton, Oregon; Davis, California; El Paso, Texas; Hillsboro, Oregon; Huntington Beach, California; Madison, Wisconsin; Washington, D.C.; and Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Two new communities were designated SolSmart Silver: Ames, Iowa and Oro Valley, Arizona.

Eleven new communities were designated SolSmart Bronze: Carrboro, North Carolina; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Charlottesville, Virginia; Cupertino, California; Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Lincoln, Nebraska; Miami-Dade County, Florida; Natick, Massachusetts; Orange County, North Carolina; Raymore, Missouri; and San Antonio, Texas.

And four more communities achieved SolSmart Gold after they were previously designated silver or bronze: Charleston County, South Carolina; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Somerville, Massachusetts.

A few examples of their achievements include:

Atlanta, SolSmart Gold: The 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.

 Ames, SolSmart Silver: The city 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.

San Antonio, SolSmart Bronze: The city 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 huge congratulations is in order for all new SolSmart designees! To find out how your community can achieve recognition and no-cost technical assistance under the SolSmart program, contact us at SolSmart@SolarFound.org.

“The City of Atlanta is proud to receive the SolSmart Gold Designation in recognition of our path-breaking leadership with solar energy. 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." -- Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

“The SolSmart program created a national benchmark for communities to reach and provided the guidance and resources to support adoption of best practices in solar policy. The actions that we took to be the first in the State of Virginia to achieve the SolSmart designation will help the city meet important climate protection and job creation goals." -- Maurice Jones, City Manager of the City of Charlottesville and President-Elect of the Virginia Local Government Management Association

“As the City of Madison strives to be a more sustainable community with a smaller carbon footprint, we are proud to receive this gold designation through SolSmart. Madison will continue to strive to do better and we look forward to additional milestones.” -- Paul Soglin, Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin

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