From Anchorage, Alaska, to Sarasota, Florida, more than 300 local governments have now met national benchmarks for encouraging the growth of solar energy and removing barriers to solar market development.
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 have met national criteria to prove they have streamlined local procedures to make it easier for homes and businesses to install solar energy systems. SolSmart provides intensive technical assistance at no cost to help communities meet these goals.
SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association, and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.
Check out the Interactive Map of SolSmart Designees
Anchorage, Alaska (SolSmart Bronze)
It may be in the far north, but Anchorage is moving ahead with ambitious plans to meet its energy needs through solar. Since the end of 2015, Anchorage has seen a 1000 percent increase in the number of solar systems installed. In 2018, a group purchase program saw 33 houses install 146 kW of solar in the Airport Heights neighborhood. Solarize Anchorage returned for 2019 in four neighborhoods with systems installed on over 150 properties. In July 2019 the municipality flipped the switch on its first, and Alaska’s largest, rooftop solar array at the William A. Egan Civic and Convention Center. The 77 kW array is expected to save over $20,000 in electricity rates and will pay for itself in less than 8 years.
Anchorage adopted its first climate action plan during the summer of 2019, which included achieving SolSmart designation among its objectives. The city worked with SolSmart to train staff on permitting and inspection best practices, which will allow residents and businesses to avoid delays in solar installations. In the fall of 2019, Anchorage became the 300th community to achieve SolSmart designation.
West Palm Beach, Florida (SolSmart Gold)
West Palm Beach has worked with SolSmart to make sure that businesses and residents can be approved for solar PV arrays more quickly than ever before. Last year, West Palm Beach set up an expedited one-day solar permitting process for PV systems of 10 kW or less, making it the first city in the state of Florida to offer a one-day permitting turnaround. This expedited process has allowed the community to add 665 kW of solar energy since mid-2018, representing 50 percent growth within a single year. To increase municipal use of solar energy, the city has enrolled in Florida Power and Light’s Solar Together program, which is a shared solar subscription plan. This will allow for approximately 12 MW of electricity to be offset by solar energy production on large-scale farms.
Southwest Virginia region (1 SolSmart Silver & 7 SolSmart Bronze)
In the coal-producing region of Southwest Virginia, SolSmart worked with eight local governments who wanted to remove barriers to solar energy development and create new opportunities for investment and economic growth. Today, at least seven large-scale solar projects in the area are soon expected to begin construction, helping both residents and businesses save on energy costs. One opportunity for business development is data centers, which often have clients and customers interested in sustainable energy use. Soon to be underway is the region’s first large installation on an abandoned mine, located next to a data center in Wise County.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (SolSmart Gold)
As cities across the nation look for ways to promote renewable energy, Philadelphia is a shining example of what local governments can do. The city has taken action to expand solar energy use, make solar more accessible to low-income households, and train high school students for jobs in solar. The Solarize Philly group purchase program has allowed thousands of households to receive free home assessments for rooftop solar. SolSmart worked with the city to help expedite the permitting process and share best practices with other communities in the region. These achievements will help the city achieve its long-term sustainability plans, including 100 percent renewable energy for municipal buildings by 2030.
Throughout the month of October, SolSmart communities, partner organizations, and Advisor organizations, are planning events, local announcements, and other special activities to highlight their solar energy achievements.