Four Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) member-communities, including the City of Athens, the Villages of Amesville and Somerset, and the unincorporated areas of Athens County, Ohio, have received a Bronze designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar.
This designation recognizes SOPEC member-communities for taking bold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. For companies looking to expand their solar activities, a SolSmart Bronze designation is a signal that these communities are “open for solar business.”
SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. More than 100 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.
City of Athens Planner, Paul Logue, states, “The development of local and sustainably generated energy is a key component of the Athens Sustainability Action Plan that was adopted by Athens City Council in 2017. This recognition will help to support future initiatives to encourage solar development in Athens. We are thrilled to receive the SolSmart Bronze designation and are grateful for the efforts of our SolSmart Advisor Sarah Conley-Ballew and the SolSmart program.”
As SolSmart designees, the four SOPEC member-communities are helping solar companies by generating more awareness around solar development and reducing barriers that stall the installation process. These actions allow even more local homes and businesses to obtain affordable, clean, and reliable electricity through solar. The actions taken at the ground-level will help encourage solar companies and developers to look toward the SOPEC region first, driving economic development and creating local jobs.
In receiving designation, SOPEC member-communities established a collective solar vision statement, which helped inform what processes could be enhanced at the local government level. This led to evaluating local permitting processes, as well as planning and zoning procedures, that could help streamline the solar installation process. SolSmart also acts as a platform to testing innovations in local market development and creative community solar financing.
In order to become designated as a SolSmart Community, SOPEC was able hire a SolSmart Advisor, Sarah Conley-Ballew, to complete and document a series of actions that incorporate solar best practices in planning, zoning, and development. The Advisor reviewed existing zoning code and planning documents to identify new opportunities to integrate solar goals. City and village officials also participated in a discussion hosted by SOPEC with AEP Ohio’s Advanced Energy Manager to discuss how the solar development goals interface with current grid management systems and plans.
Each member-community also created a new solar resource page on their government websites for residents and contractors seeking information about installing solar on a home or business. A permitting checklist and advice on selecting a local solar installer can be found on the websites, as well as valuable consumer information and links to additional resources.
SolSmart uses objective criteria to award communities points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers to solar energy development. Communities that take sufficient action are designated either gold, silver, or bronze.
As part of the SolSmart program, a team of national experts provides no-cost technical assistance to help communities achieve designation. All cities and counties are eligible to join the SolSmart program and receive this technical assistance. Interested communities can learn more at SolSmart.org.
* Featured Image: Mayor Steve Patterson of the City of Athens, Ohio, accepts the Bronze SolSmart designation on behalf of all SOPEC communities during his visit to Washington D.C.