Over 400 municipalities, counties, and regional organizations in 41 states have now achieved designation under SolSmart, a federally funded program that helps local governments make it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar. And new research shows that SolSmart provides significant benefits to participating communities and has measurable impacts on the solar market.
FYI: SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Launched in 2016, SolSmart is a national designation program 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 program offers technical assistance at no cost to help local governments become “open for solar business.”
“Across the nation, SolSmart is helping communities reduce costs, shorten permit waiting times, and expand solar energy installations,” said Larry Sherwood, Administrator of The Solar Foundation and President and CEO of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). “The success of this program shows that local governments have taken the lead in setting ambitious solar energy goals that boost economic development, sustainability, and job growth.”
New Research Shows Billions in Impact
A forthcoming study from Missouri University of Science & Technology, Florida State University, University of Miami, and University of Texas at Austin found that SolSmart designees added between 300-450 MW of solar capacity and 12,800-19,200 new installations nationwide. This translates the $10 million in taxpayer funds for SolSmart into $1 billion to 2 billion in additional solar investment. The study also found that SolSmart speeds up the permit process for solar installations by 7.5 days on average.
Some examples from recent designees are below, and additional communities are featured on the SolSmart website:
• The North Central Texas Council of Governments has provided widespread training and
educational resources to Dallas-Fort Worth area communities, including a comprehensive website on solar energy.
• Santa Fe, New Mexico has placed renewable energy on nine municipal buildings and is
preparing to launch a major Solarize campaign this year focused on low-to-moderate income
• The U.S. Virgin Islands launched an online permitting portal for distributed solar and secured
funding for a solar-plus-storage microgrid project.
• Wood County, Wisconsin worked with a SolSmart partner to conduct solar feasibility studies for county facilities, leading to the first county-owned solar project.
“The impact of the historic Winter Storm Uri in the Southern United States highlighted the importance of solar energy as a tool for resiliency,” said Lori Clark, Program Manager at the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “SolSmart is helping cities and counties reduce barriers and develop a pathway for the accelerated use of solar. As a designated regional organization, we’ve been proud to help communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth region achieve their goals through SolSmart designation and to educate communities on the benefits that solar energy can offer.”
Other communities that recently achieved SolSmart designation (or moved to a higher designation level) include Putnam County, Georgia; the OKI Regional Council of Governments; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Montgomery County, Maryland; Stuart, Florida; South St. Paul, Minnesota; Leon County, Florida; Steamboat Springs and Routt County, Colorado; Branford, Connecticut; Pepperell, Massachusetts; South Bend, Indiana; New River Valley Regional Commission, Virginia; and Williamsburg, Virginia.