Ten Chicago-area communities just made it easier to go solar

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Ten Chicago-area communities are easing their solar interconnection processes, making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar. To prove it, each earned designation under SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that helps local governments reduce barriers to solar energy use for homes and businesses.

Communities designated include Carol Stream and Mount Prospect at the SolSmart Gold level; Bensenville and Broadview at SolSmart Silver; and Geneva, Gurnee, Hazel Crest, Northlake, Oak Forest, and Westmont at SolSmart Bronze. All these communities worked with a team of national experts to streamline local procedures and help

SolSmart is led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the International City/County Management Association. The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus worked in partnership with SolSmart to recruit these communities and help them meet the requirements for designation.

“It’s an honor to receive SolSmart designation today along with nine other Caucus communities,” said Mayor Jeffrey Sherwin, City of Northlake Mayor and Caucus Executive Board Treasurer. “In Northlake, we worked hard to ensure that our zoning ordinance did not restrict solar development ahead of private investments in clean energy. In Illinois, there has been much progress on solar policy, and we don’t want to get in the way of future growth.”

Since the program launched in 2016, SolSmart has designated more than 400 communities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Illinois, a total of 59 communities have been designated SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze, more than any other state.

How do these changes help?

For example, communities in the Chicago region established clear permitting processes and communicated these to applicants through a solar permitting checklist. The checklist provides clear and transparent information on permit requirements, which saves time spent on revisions and accelerates permit approval.

“We are so proud of these communities for meeting national benchmarks to achieve designation under the SolSmart program,” said Theresa Perry, program director at IREC. “Thanks to their efforts and the work of the Caucus, the Chicago area truly stands out among communities nationwide for its commitment to sustainable energy growth.”

The Caucus previously served as a local Advisor for the SolSmart program and helped guide 35 communities in two cohorts to designation in 2018 and 2019. All of the cohort members are among 140 communities that have signed the Greenest Region Compact led by the Caucus, which is the largest regional sustainability collaborative for municipalities in the country. Many of the communities being honored today also passed a resolution in support of the Caucus’s Climate Action Plan for the Chicago Region released in 2021.

“Argonne is thrilled to collaborate with local civic leaders to bring renewable energy technology to nearby suburbs. Our work together is making solar power more accessible, which will create a greener region and nation. We congratulate the 10 recognized communities and look forward to partnering with others for a cleaner environment,” said Dr. Paul Kearns, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

All municipalities, counties, and regional organizations are eligible to join the SolSmart program and receive no-cost technical assistance toward meeting their solar energy goals. Communities can learn more by visiting SolSmart.org.

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