The Solar Foundation uses strategic research and educational programs to transform markets and expand the use of solar energy, battery storage, and other solar-compatible technologies worldwide. Below are a few of our groundbreaking programs that help drive solar market growth.


Local governments have tremendous influence over solar market development in their communities. SolSmart is a national designation program recognizing communities that make it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar. Municipalities and counties achieve designation by meeting objective criteria to show they have removed obstacles to solar energy growth. These actions help reduce the non-hardware costs, or “soft costs,” that significantly drive up the price of solar installations.

The Solar Foundation leads SolSmart in partnership with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).  Since the program launched in 2016, more than 370 cities, counties, and small towns across the nation have achieved SolSmart designation.

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Solar energy is now mainstream across the United States, with over 2 million U.S. solar customers. However, solar in the U.S. is a long way from realizing its full potential. Direct and indirect costs of permitting, inspection and interconnection add about $7,000 ($1.00 per watt) to the cost of a typical residential solar energy system.

The Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) Campaign will create a low-cost, seamless process for rooftop solar and solar+storage installations, while enhancing safety and reliability. This will make solar energy more affordable and accessible for homeowners and businesses.

The SolarAPP campaign seeks to develop and provide free and simple online permitting tools for local governments; and, help local governments provide instantaneous permitting and innovative inspections for qualifying solar projects. Achieving these objectives would help millions of Americans choose affordable solar and storage for their homes and businesses over the next five years. Local governments will also benefit from added revenues from increased adoption.

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Nonprofit tax-exempt organizations, such as affordable housing, faith-based institutions, and schools, face unique challenges in seeking to finance solar projects. These institutions can face difficulties obtaining traditional bank financing because they are often viewed as a credit risk. Through the CivicPACE initiative, we helped overcome this challenge using a finance tool called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).

The CivicPACE team produced informative research to share with finance professionals, nonprofit organizations, and local government affiliates. The team also supported two pilot solar projects using CivicPACE financing in Washington, DC. Through these efforts, CivicPACE helped provide a roadmap for more of these community institutions to go solar.

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Solar Schools

Along with our partners, we publish the most comprehensive study on solar at K-12 schools nationwide. In 2020, Generation 180 released the third edition of Brighter Future: A Study on Solar at U.S. Schools with support from The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

Our research found there are now 7,332 K-12 schools using solar power nationwide, making up 5.5% of all K-12 public and private schools in the United States. These schools are saving money on electric bills, educating students about clean energy, and ensuring a brighter future for the next generation. A dramatic decline in the cost of solar panels — combined with new financing options — has made solar widely accessible to America’s schools.

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