SolSmart for Minnesota Local Governments

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CERTs and the Great Plains Institute are helping Minnesota’s cities and counties tap into the benefits of solar energy by becoming designated through SolSmart, a national program that provides free technical assistance with addressing local barriers to solar energy.

All local governments that join SolSmart automatically qualify for up to 100 hours of free technical assistance from national solar experts.

In addition, CERTs and GPI will be working in-depth with a cohort of 10 local governments from May-October 2017.

Learn more about SolSmart >>

Download the Program Guide >>

  Benefits of Addressing Solar Barriers

Often referred to as “soft costs,” the administrative costs of solar development, including rules around permitting, planning, and zoning at the local government level, can have a significant impact on the price of solar. Reducing soft costs also produces benefits for local governments, including the following:


  • Reduced staff time needed to respond to solar development applications

  • Attracting the interest of leading clean energy companies

  • Positive impacts on jobs and local economic development

  • An increased return on investment for local residents who invest in solar

  • Increased affordability of solar energy systems

  • Contribute to local environmental goals (where applicable)

  How to Participate

Any local government entity that has jurisdiction over permitting, planning, zoning, and development related to solar energy systems is invited to participate.

The process below describes how local governments can join the SolSmart program to receive free technical assistance.


  1. Letter of Commitment: Interested local governments submit a letter of commitment declaring their intent to reduce barriers to solar development in their community. Kathryn Phillips (kphillips@gpisd.net , 612-767-7294) at the Great Plains Institute is available to help Minnesota local governments with drafting and submitting the letter. Click here to download the Letter of Commitment Template

  2. Application: Communities that have already made significant progress to reduce solar barriers can complete a full application to seek immediate designation as a Bronze, Silver, or Gold SolSmart community. For most communities, this designation will happen later as a result of receiving technical assistance. Communities not seeking immediate designation ONLY need to fill out the first page of the application (Community Data and Contact Information). Again, Kathryn Phillips (kphillips@gpisd.net , 612-767-7294) at the Great Plains Institute is available to help with this task, including calculating kW of installed solar in each community. Click here to download the Application

  3. National Technical Assistance: All communities that submit a commitment letter and at least page 1 of the application (Community Data and Contact Info) will become eligible to receive up to 100 hours of remote technical assistance from the SolSmart program with making progress to achieve designation at the Bronze level.

  4. Get Recognition: As part of the program, communities have the opportunity to take action on permitting, planning, zoning, and development and receive recognition by achieving Bronze, Silver, or Gold status. Communities may also recieve special awards for demonstrating significant achievements in reducing barriers to solar.

  Download Materials

Participation Materials:

  Frequently Asked Questions

Question

How is SolSmart funded?

SolSmart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) initiative, which is designed to recognize communities that have taken key steps to address local barriers to solar energy and foster the growth of mature local solar markets. Click here for more information on SPARC.

Question

Does the Letter of Commitment bind us to taking any actions?

While the Letter of Commitment is intended to declare a community’s intent to take action to reduce barriers to solar development, it doesn’t bind a community to any specific actions. Some actions are required to receive Bronze, Silver, and Gold designation, while others are optional. The full list of actions (both required and optional) is available in the SolSmart Application.

Question

What kind of technical assistance will be provided?

Each community committed to pursuing SolSmart designation will be eligible to receive technical assistance from national experts, focused primarily on actions to achieve Bronze designation. The application for a local Solar Advisor being put together by CERTs and the Great Plains Institute will focus on a sub-set of actions that are most desired and applicable to Minnesota communities that have submitted applications by February 10, 2017

  Contact Information

Have questions about SolSmart in Minnesota? Please contact…

Trevor Drake
Project Manager
Great Plains Institute
612-767-7291
tdrake@gpisd.net

 

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Minnesotans building a clean energy future

         

    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission