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)

SolSmart Designated Communities in Minnesota

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] or 612-625-9634) 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 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 ONLYneed to fill out the first page of the application (Community Data and Contact Information). Again, Peter Lindstrom ([email protected] or 612-625-9634) is available to help with this task, including calculating kW of installed solar in each community. Click here to access 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 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. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

Video: Simple Solar Permitting Guidelines


Letter of Commitment Template
SolSmart Factsheet
Pathways to Bronze Designation
Guide to SolSmart for GreenStep Cities