Solar-friendly Cities Challenge Winners Announced

Among other benefits, residential solar panels reduce dependence on a community’s power grid. Cities can promote the use of solar power by implementing policies that streamline the permitting process, provide tax incentives, and allow more people to install solar through innovative financing programs. (Getty Images)

Two U.S. cities have been recognized for removing barriers to solar energy and making it easier and more affordable for homes and businesses to install solar. Here’s how they achieved that recognition.

The National League of Cities (NLC) is delighted to announce the winners of the SolSmart Cities Challenge. In August, NLC challenged cities across the country to prove how solar-friendly their local policies are by completing a SolSmart designation scorecard. Sixteen communities accepted the challenge, but there could only be two winners.

Congratulations to the two cities with the highest points total:

Fremont, California
Kansas City, Missouri

“Receiving this first place recognition is an incredible accomplishment, but the true victory is the progress we’re making toward building a clean energy economy,” said Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison. “It has required a community-wide effort to get to where we are today. From informing our residents on the benefits of solar and encouraging them to move forward with installation, to creating a streamlined over-the-counter permitting process — it’s the little things that have really moved the needle and helped us reach our goals.”

Kansas City has implemented solar policies and processes that demonstrate the city’s commitment to clean energy development. Solar is allowed as an accessary use throughout the city if certain minimum requirements are achieved. Process improvements, such as the on-line submission, review, and approval of installation plans, help solar installers and city staff save time.

Both Fremont and Kansas City have created a local environment that is favorable for homes and businesses to install solar by removing barriers to solar deployment. They are tapping into one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, diversifying their energy supply to improve service reliability, and meeting goals set by the community to provide clean power.

NLC would also like to recognize the following cities for their participation in the SolSmart Cities Challenge and their commitment to making it easier and more affordable for homes and businesses to install solar in their community:

Beaverton, Oregon
Davis, California
Franklin Park, Illinois
Goshen, Indiana
Grayslake, Illinois
Highland Park, Illinois
Indianapolis, Indiana
Lake Worth, Florida
Nappanee, Indiana
Newark, New Jersey
Park Forest, Illinois
Sacramento, California
Schaumburg, Illinois
Stafford, Texas

SolSmart, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, nationally recognizes cities and counties that have taken key steps to address local barriers to solar energy and provides no-cost technical assistance for any community looking to improve local solar markets. A SolSmart designation signals that a community is “open for solar business,” which distinguishes these communities from their peers. The SolSmart team looks forward to working with all the participating cities to help them achieve SolSmart designation.

About the Author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation. His areas of expertise include solar photovoltaic project development, due diligence, and risk assessment.

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