by Marcus Travis, Outreach Communications Specialist
2016 was a record-setting year for solar energy in the U.S., and there is no indication the current solar expansion seen in 2017 is slowing down. Data from the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report produced by The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), shows the U.S. reached 47.1 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity, enough to power 9.1 million American homes. One of the key factors contributing to this continued rise of solar markets – the commitment made by cities, towns, and counties across the country to adopt the use of clean and renewable energy as they work to develop sustainable communities.
Many communities have taken the opportunity to join or implement initiatives designed to drive their commitment to renewable forms of energy. There are communities pledging to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by no later than 2050. While other communities have gone a step further, implementing Solarize programs that save money on residential solar installations. In any case, to be successful, commitment requires action. Through its SolSmart program, ICMA wants to not only celebrate local governments for helping make solar more accessible to their communities but help local governments put actionable items into place as they progress towards their solar goals.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, the SolSmart program provides your community no-cost technical assistance as you work towards SolSmart designation. SolSmart’s team of national solar experts works with your local government staff to make improvements in eight essential operation areas: 1) Permitting; 2) Planning, Zoning, and Development Regulations; 3) Inspection; 4) Construction Codes; 5) Solar Rights; 6) Utility Engagement; 7) Community Engagement; and 8) Market Development and Finance.
SolSmart’s Criteria Advisory Committee identified that making improvements and streamlining these eight operational areas helps reduce the ‘soft costs’ (non-hardware) of going solar. Addressing soft costs and other barriers can benefit communities in several ways:
- Reducing soft costs can deliver an increased return on investment for solar customers.
- Reducing red tape and more efficient approval processes can result in a time and money savings for local governments, representing a more productive use of constrained budgets and limited taxpayer resources.
- Improving the processes and policies giving rise to some soft costs can result in improved business prospects for solar companies.
- Addressing these and other local regulatory issues can open your community for solar business, resulting in positive impacts on jobs and economic development.
- Lowering soft costs encourages more residents to go solar and dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
"Solar has been a very important part of Perry's focus on sustainable development. Taking our experience and success with solar and passing it on to the community to encourage them to take a serious look at solar is one of our approaches to building a more sustainable community... Working with the SolSmart technical assistance team added an extra layer of stability to the process and our achievement of SolSmart Bronze designation would not have been possible without them." - Sven Peterson, City Manager of Perry, IA
Join ICMA’s SolSmart City & County Challenge
The SolSmart City & County Challenge encourages cities and counties across the United States to remove barriers to solar as they progress towards increased sustainability.
To participate in the challenge, your community must complete the SolSmart scorecard. The deadline to submit all scorecards has been extended to October 6, 2017. The challenge is open to all U.S. communities who have not yet applied to join the SolSmart program. Communities who have already applied, received SolSmart designation, or are participants in the SolSmart Advisor/Host Community/RFP program are not eligible. If you have questions or would like assistance completing the scorecard, please contact email@example.com.
The SolSmart City & County Challenge will feature two winners – the two communities with the two highest verified points totals between the SolSmart Standard Scoring Criteria and the SolSmart Modified Scoring Criteria. The Modified Scoring Criteria is for communities who cannot meet the standard designation prerequisites due to lack of zoning or permitting authority/jurisdiction. See more detail on the Modified Scoring Criteria.
Prizes for each winning community include:
- Receive (1) free registration to the 103rd ICMA Annual Conference.
- Date: October 22-25, 2017
- Location: San Antonio/Bexar County, TX.
- Recognition during the 103rd ICMA Annual Conference
- Recognition on ICMA communication platforms including the ICMA Blog, ICMA SmartBrief Newsletter, and ICMA social media channels.
- Receive a Community Spotlight highlighting your community’s solar work on the SolSmart Website.
- Receive a SolSmart City & County Winner’s Certificate
ALL communities that participate in the SolSmart City & County Challenge can achieve SolSmart designation and receive national recognition as leading solar communities despite not winning the challenge!
Upcoming SolSmart Events
Join SolSmart at the 103rd ICMA Annual Conference in San Antonio/ Bexar County! Not yet registered? Register here.
SolSmart Events Details: