In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a new initiative – Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) – to develop and award a new type of designation to communities who have taken key steps to remove barriers to solar deployment and to proactively help build more mature local solar markets. Achieving SPARC designation will not only serve as a point of pride for communities, their elected officials and staff, and citizens, but will signal to solar companies that these communities are “open for business” – resulting in increased local economic development opportunities and decreased costs for solar customers. And prospective SPARC designees don’t have to go it alone. Communities committed to pursuing designation will be eligible for up to 100 hours (on average) of free technical assistance from SPARC solar experts to help them qualify for the program.
Though the program criteria will not be finalized until spring 2016, there is an opportunity for a select few communities to join an elite group of “SPARC Early Adopters” and gain access to exclusive program benefits.The first 30 communities to receive technical assistance from the SPARC team and to be on track to implement a majority of its recommendations (based on proven, national best practices) for improving planning and zoning, permitting and inspection, and financing options for solar by March 31, 2016 will receive recognition as an “Early Adopter.”
Communities will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. Those achieving “Early Adopter” status will receive the following benefits:
(1) Bonus points toward designation and a unique designation “badge” on its community profile on the SPARC program website;
(2) “Early Adopter” status will be considered alongside other factors in qualifying a community to host a SPARC Advisor – experienced solar experts funded by the program and deployed to local communities for up to approximately six months to help achieve designation, and;
(3) A small subset of “Early Adopter” communities (e.g., the first ten) will be selected to participate in an exclusive media event.
To apply for the “Early Adopters” campaign, contact:
Philip Haddix, Program Director at The Solar Foundation (email@example.com; 202-469-3743).