Become designated as a solar-friendly community

Minnesota’s cities and counties can unlock the economic development benefits of solar energy by becoming designated through SolSmart, a national program that provides free technical assistance with addressing local barriers to solar energy development.

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

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. Peter Lindstrom with CERTs ([email protected]) is available to help Minnesota local governments with drafting and submitting the letter. Access the SolSmart Solar Statement Template
  2. Application: Communities that have already made 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. Access the application.
  3. National Technical Assistance: All communities that submit a commitment letter and at least page 1 of the application 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 and receive recognition by achieving Bronze, Silver, or Gold status. Communities may also receive special awards for demonstrating significant achievements in reducing barriers to solar. 

Video: Simple Solar Permitting Guidelines