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The Solar Foundation serves as the Technical Assistance Provider for SolSmart, a national designation program designed to recognize communities that have taken key steps to address local barriers to solar energy and otherwise foster the growth of mature local solar markets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative through the Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) funding opportunity, the SolSmart program primarily seeks to address solar “soft costs,” or business process or administrative costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system – costs which are then passed on to solar customers. The SolSmart designation program provides high-profile, national recognition for communities that have made it cheaper and easier for home and business owners to invest in solar energy. In addition, achieving designation sends a signal to solar companies that a community is “open for business,” attracting new businesses and helping designees share in the economic development benefits attached to the solar industry.

SolSmart recently announced the first 22 communities to achieve designation. Learn more here.

Communities committed to pursuing SolSmart designation will be eligible for no-cost technical assistance (TA) from The Solar Foundation and its team of national solar and local government experts to help communities meet the criteria for designation. The team includes:

To enter the SolSmart program, communities must submit an intake form through SolSmart.org. Responses will be reviewed against program criteria to see if your community meets the requirements for designation. The initial review will also determine at which level – Bronze, Silver, or Gold – a community would qualify for designation. If, upon review, your community does not meet the requirements for SolSmart designation, your community would be eligible for technical assistance. The personalized technical assistance offered through the SolSmart program is designed to help all interested communities improve their solar markets and achieve SolSmart designation. A community may also receive technical assistance to achieve a higher level of designation.

A key component of SolSmart TA are the SolSmart Advisors – experienced, temporary staff fully funded by the SolSmart program to work in up to 40 communities across the nation to assist local governments in addressing solar soft cost issues and qualifying their host communities for designation. Communities can apply to host a SolSmart Advisor only after entering the SolSmart program.

Early in the SolSmart program, The Solar Foundation developed the campaign to engage up to 30 communities around soft cost issues before program criteria were developed. This elite cohort of Early Adopter communities received additional technical assistance and earned bonus points which they were able to apply to achieving full SolSmart designation. Early Adopter status provides further distinction for early movers within the SolSmart designation program.