SolSmart Recognizes Communities for Making Solar Energy Accessible

SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, has recognized seven new communities as national leaders for cutting red tape, making solar energy more affordable and accessible, and becoming open for solar business.

Two cities received the highest designation of SolSmart Gold: Louisville, Kentucky; and New York. Five other communities also will be designated as SolSmart Bronze: Maricopa County, Ariz.; Moab, Utah; Plano, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Summit County, Utah.

“We recognize these communities for removing barriers to solar energy development and lowering costs for homes and businesses,” says Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “The solar industry is also a source of job growth, and promoting solar energy use is a way to build local communities.”

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

“The SolSmart Gold designation recognizes that New York City is a great place for solar companies to do business,” says David Buckner, president of Solar Energy Systems LLC. “When we entered the city’s solar PV market in 2002, we identified barriers, including unruly regulations, high system costs, and a lack of customer awareness. We have worked with the City University of New York (CUNY) and other installers and advocacy groups over the years to identify and erase several of the hurdles related to permitting, interconnection, and customer uptake.”

Denver moved up to SolSmart Gold, and Charleston County, S.C., and Pinecrest, Fla., moved up to SolSmart Silver. To date a total of 36 communities representing 21.8 million people in 18 states have received SolSmart designation since the program was launched in 2016. Three other communities moved up to a higher designation after they were previously designated SolSmart Bronze.

“Technological advances are making renewable energy resources more affordable and local governments around the world are paying attention,” says David Grossman, director of global programs at the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). “Through this designation program, cities and counties across the U.S. are demonstrating their commitment to installing clean energy systems in their pursuit of sustainable communities.”

The National League of Cities honored the cities and towns receiving designation at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. The National Association of Counties also honored the two counties receiving designation at their recent Washington, D.C., legislative conference.

“Cities are leading the way on solar deployment and driving our country toward a sustainable future,” says Matt Zone, president of the National League of Cities and council member on the Cleveland City Council. “As a 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.”

Communities achieve SolSmart designation by reducing solar soft costs, which are non-hardware costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. Soft costs represent up to two-thirds of the cost of an installed residential system.

The SolSmart designation team, led by ICMA, awards communities points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers to solar energy development. 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 technical assistance to help participating cities and counties achieve designation. In addition, eleven communities have been selected to host SolSmart Advisors, fully-funded temporary staff who provide assistance to communities for periods of up to six months. The next round of communities to host SolSmart Advisors will be announced.

All U.S. cities and counties are eligible to join SolSmart and receive no-cost technical assistance to achieve designation. Communities can begin the process by visiting the SolSmart web page.

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