The information below was originally released by The Solar Foundation.
Over 300 cities, towns, and counties across the country, including Edina, Minnesota, have now met national benchmarks for encouraging the growth of solar energy and removing barriers to solar market development.
Led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association, and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, SolSmart helps local governments make it faster, easier and more affordable to go solar. The program launched in 2016 and has now achieved its goal of designating at least 300 communities as SolSmart Gold, Silver or Bronze, with designees in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
Edina received SolSmart Gold designation in January 2019. Through the SolSmart program, Edina received no-cost technical assistance and national recognition for its bold actions to advance solar energy locally. Among Edina’s solar achievements, the City updated the zoning code to define a solar energy system and allow solar as a permitted accessory use in all zoning districts.
“It was great to go through the SolSmart certification process because it gave us a third-party audit and allowed us to see what experts, as well as other cities, did to ensure that our community was open for solar.” Said Tara Brown, the Sustainability Manager for the City of Edina.
The SolSmart designees include cities, counties, small towns, and regional organizations in 40 states and the District of Columbia, representing 82 million people. One in four people in America now live in a SolSmart-designated community. All designees, including the City of Edina, have met national criteria to prove they have streamlined local procedures to make it easier for homes and businesses to install solar energy systems.
The actions that SolSmart communities have taken help reduce soft costs, which are the non-hardware costs that today represent roughly 65 percent of the cost of solar installations. SolSmart helps local governments streamline permit approvals, review planning and zoning guidelines, facilitate group purchase campaigns, and improve solar financing options. Taken together, these actions help lower the overall costs of solar installations and allow the solar industry to expand more rapidly nationwide.
Throughout the month of October, these communities are planning events, local announcements, and other special activities to highlight their solar energy achievements. More information on these communities and their achievements can be found at http://www.SolSmart.org/SolSmart300.