SolSmart is a new national designation program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative through the Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) initiative, designed to recognize communities that have taken key steps to address local barriers to solar energy and foster the growth of mature local solar markets.
The SolSmart program primarily seeks to address “solar soft costs,” or business process or administrative costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system — costs which are then passed on to solar customers. While only certain local government procedures (such as permitting, planning, and zoning) are the source of some soft costs, local governments are in a unique position to reduce soft costs and take action to promote the use of solar locally.
The SolSmart designation program will provide high-profile, national recognition for communities that have made it cheaper and easier for solar customers to invest in solar energy. In addition, achieving designation will send a signal to solar companies that a community is “open for solar business,” attracting new businesses and helping designees share in the economic development benefits attached to the solar industry. Interested communities can apply for designation using the simple online Intake Form.
Upon receipt of this application, the Designation Program Administrator (led by the International City/County Management Association) will conduct a baseline assessment to determine which criteria the community currently meets based on previous efforts and which actions are still required before designation can be granted. Communities committed to pursuing SolSmart designation will be eligible for no-cost technical assistance (“TA”) from the Technical Assistance Provider (led by The Solar Foundation) and its team of national solar and local government experts to help communities meet the
criteria for designation.
We encourage all applicants to read the full program guide linked below before beginning the application process.
PAPER APPLICATION: Before you begin, we recommend reviewing the SolSmart Program Guide and Frequently Asked Questions. Due to the comprehensiveness of the form, we also recommend printing and reviewing the SolSmart Paper Application which contains the same designation criteria information as this online form in printable format. Circulating it to your colleagues in relevant local government departments and collecting verification documents before beginning will make information easier to enter in fewer sittings, and may help to expedite the processing of your intake form.
DOCUMENTATION AND VERIFICATION: The intake form is comprehensive of solar soft cost issues addressable by local governments and it will require input from multiple departments. Each action includes recommended forms of documentation an applicant can submit for our team to verify that an action has been achieved. While submitting the recommended documentation is preferable and will help expedite the review process, we recognize that not every community will have the same documentation. In these cases, please provide what is available and best demonstrates the achievement of each action.
SAVING YOUR PROGRESS: This intake form allows respondents to save their progress at the end of each page and return at a later time to complete additional sections. The form will not save your progress if you exit without clicking the “Save and Resume Later” link, which may be found at the bottom of each page. Each time you save you will receive a new link.
CONTACT US: If you hit a snag, contact us:
- SolSmart Hotline: 202-962-3515
- SolSmart Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are three levels of SolSmart designation for communities – below are the requirements for each:
• Provide a Solar Statement outlining your community’s solar goals, and commit to tracking key metrics such as number and capacity of installed Photovoltaic (PV) systems.
• Fulfill required actions in both of the Foundational Categories:
• Planning, Zoning, and Development Regulations
• Earn at least 20 points in each of the two Foundational Categories (above).
• Earn a total of 20 points from actions across the six Special Focus Categories: Inspection; Construction Codes; Solar Rights; Utility Engagement; Community Engagement; and Market Development and Finance. Note: Actions in any of the Special Focus Categories count toward the 20-point target.
• Note: Early Adopter communities will receive 10 extra points applied toward a category of their choice.
• Fulfill the requirements to become a SolSmart Bronze Community.
• Complete the two Silver-required actions in the Planning, Zoning, and Development Regulations and Inspection categories.
• Earn 100 points overall from actions taken in any combination of categories.
• Fulfill the requirements to become a SolSmart Silver Community.
• Complete the Gold-required action in Permitting.
• Earn 200 points overall from actions taken in any combination of categories.
• Communities that earn 60% of the points in a given category are eligible for special recognition.