Key Project Information


U.S. Department of Energy

Period of Performance



United States

ICMA's Role

SolSmart is a national designation program that recognizes communities that have taken key steps to address local barriers to solar energy and foster the growth of solar markets.

Project Details

SolSmart offers national recognition and no-cost technical assistance that helps local governments accelerate solar deployment and makes it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access affordable and renewable solar energy to meet their electricity needs. 

The SolSmart program launched in 2016 with an initial grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. An important goal of the program is to reduce solar "soft costs," the non-hardware costs that include permitting, financing, and installing solar. These costs make up about two-thirds of the cost of a solar installation. Actions that local governments take can significantly reduce soft costs and encourage nationwide solar energy growth. In 2022, the Department of Energy extended the SolSmart program for an additional five years through 2027. In this expanded program, SolSmart aims to designate an additional 500 communities.

The SolSmart Program is designed to advance the goals of the federal Justice40 Initiative to provide equitable opportunities for communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. SolSmart will target 40% of program training and technical assistance to these prioritized communities and of the 500 new designees participating in SolSmart from 2022-2027, at least 200 will be from jurisdictions that the DOE recognizes as disadvantaged. 

Learn more about SolSmart and apply

Since the program launched in 2016, more than 500 cities, counties, and regional organizations in 43 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have achieved SolSmart designation, representing over 139 million people.

SolSmart Program Success

Local government organizations discuss how participating in SolSmart has benefited their operations and procedures, and as a result, their communities' businesses and residents.

How SolSmart Helps Your Community

Local municipalities, as well as counties and regional organizations, play important roles in establishing goals for clean energy deployment, implementing strategies to improve local market conditions, and creating supportive plans and policies. However, local policies and procedures can sometimes create unnecessary paperwork, red tape, and other burdensome requirements, increasing the cost of solar and discouraging solar companies from moving to the area. By streamlining these requirements and taking other steps to encourage solar development, communities become "open for solar business." Whether your community is new to solar energy or an established leader, the SolSmart Program can connect you to valuable resources and support to implement your goals. 

The SolSmart program has two key parts. First, the program provides no-cost technical assistance to help local governments follow national best practices to expand solar energy use in their jurisdictions. Second, it recognizes and celebrates these communities with SolSmart designations of Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. 

SolSmart has identified best practices in key areas including permitting and inspection, planning and zoning, government operations, community engagement, and market development. SolSmart's technical assistance team includes partner organizations with expertise on solar energy and provides one-on-one support, resources, and examples customized to the needs to each community. Every municipality, county, and regional organization who participates in SolSmart is eligible to receive this technical assistance at no cost as they work to implement best practices and achieve points toward their designation. 

ICMA and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) have lead roles in the SolSmart Program. Since 2022, ICMA's role includes

  • Promoting SolSmart to cities, counties, and towns through ICMA's outreach channels, including the ICMA website, social media, and conference sessions.
  • Coordinating technical assistance efforts to communities seeking designation.
  • Recognizing and publicizing communities that achieve the SolSmart designation.

Learn more about SolSmart and apply

For additional information, see frequently asked questions on the SolSmart site, or email

New, Reduced Membership Dues

A new, reduced dues rate is available for CAOs/ACAOs, along with additional discounts for those in smaller communities, has been implemented. Learn more and be sure to join or renew today!