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Explainer: New and Updated SolSmart Application

We recently released the newest version of the SolSmart application. In addition to determining if a community receives a designation, the application’s criteria include over 90 actions that can help municipalities and counties become “solar-ready.” SolSmart’s designation criteria span eight categories: Permitting; Planning, Zoning, and Development Regulations; Inspection; Construction Codes; Solar Rights; Utility Engagement; Community Engagement; and Market Development and Finance.

What’s Changed in the New Criteria

This newest version of the SolSmart application improves the language in over 65 criteria and ensures they reflect the most up-to-date national best practices. We also added several new criteria that provide communities with more options as they pursue SolSmart Bronze, Silver, and Gold designations. These new criteria include actions such as:

  • Encouraging low-to-moderate income households to participate in a community solar program provided by a utility or third party
  • Establishing solar energy zones and/or solar overlays for primary-use solar PV within the zoning code

The most significant change from the previous SolSmart criteria is the update to the SolSmart Silver prerequisite in the Planning, Zoning, and Development Regulations category. Communities can now complete this prerequisite by posting online a document from their Planning/Zoning Department that states accessory use solar PV (e.g. rooftop solar panels) is allowed by-right in all major zones. Previously, communities had to codify by-right solar zoning language to earn SolSmart Silver. This is now the requirement for SolSmart Gold.

What the Criteria Measure

Based on national best practices from leading solar communities and experts, the criteria encourage solar energy growth, reduce barriers to solar energy deployment, and make it possible for more homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs. The SolSmart criteria include actions such as:

  • Conducting feasibility analysis for solar PV installations on/at local government facilities or under-utilized properties such as brownfields or landfills.
  • Reviewing zoning requirements and identifying restrictions that intentionally or unintentionally prohibit solar PV development.
  • Developing an online checklist detailing the required permits, submittals, and steps that residents, businesses, installers, inspectors, and others need to take to install a rooftop solar PV.

Our team of national solar experts offer no-cost technical assistance to help communities meet the criteria. By taking these actions, communities earn points toward SolSmart Bronze, Silver, or Gold designation.

Check out the full SolSmart application here to learn about the over 90 actions our team of national solar experts can help your community achieve to become “solar-ready.” If you’re interested in learning more about the SolSmart application or designation process request a consultation here.