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New Regional Organization Pathway Designates Organizations for Solar Leadership

Good news for Regional Organizations interested in advancing regional solar efforts! Through SolSmart’s new Regional Organization Pathway, the Metropolitan Council became the nation’s first regional organization to achieve SolSmart designation. The Metropolitan Council is receiving a Silver designation from the national SolSmart program for its leadership in helping communities in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region advance solar energy.

Since 2016, SolSmart has designated over 230 cities, counties, and small towns nationwide for taking bold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. The Met Council’s Silver designation highlights the organization’s achievements in expanding solar across the region, such as offering resources and technical assistance on solar planning, and market development and finance. The Met Council has advised 76 communities on solar in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region, including 26 municipalities that have achieved or are on the pathway to achieving SolSmart designation.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for our collaborative and productive efforts with cities and counties throughout the seven-county metro area,” said Lisa Barajas, Community Development Director of the Metropolitan Council. “The Council’s role is to work across local boundaries to address key shared issues and to support local governments in addressing those issues. Increasingly, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and resilience are interests we all share to be competitive as a region and improve the livability, vitality and prosperity of our local communities.”

SolSmart’s new regional designation pathway will recognize organizations such as the Met Council for assisting communities across an entire metropolitan area or geographic region. It shows how regional organizations can facilitate coordination across jurisdictions and help municipalities and counties work together to advance solar energy growth.

“The SolSmart Regional Organization Pathway is a tremendous opportunity for regional development organizations across the country,” said Joe McKinney, Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). “NADO is looking forward to this new initiative that will enable our members to access free technical assistance and training to better serve their local communities and enhance solar markets through planning and permitting assistance. Achieving SolSmart designation will make these regions more competitive and open new doors to business growth, workforce development, and wider economic prosperity.”

To receive designation, the Regional Organizations convene local stakeholders, disseminate resources, and provide assistance on reviewing local processes to advance regional solar efforts. This includes offering guidance to communities on solar planning, zoning, and development best practices, collaborating with local inspection departments, and hosting regional permitting training events.

SolSmart uses objective criteria to award municipalities, counties, and regional organization points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers to regional solar energy development. All entities that meet the criteria are designated SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze.

As part of the SolSmart program, a team of national experts provides no-cost technical assistance to help communities and organizations achieve designation. Regional councils, planning organizations, and development organizations are eligible to participate in SolSmart’s Regional Organization pathway and receive this technical assistance. Read the Regional Organization Application here. Interested organizations can learn more or request a free consultation here.