Solar panels in a green field.

The Path to Designation

Whether you’re a city or town, county, or regional organization, the SolSmart technical assistance team is here to help you accelerate solar energy growth.

The SolSmart designation criteria are based on established best practices that encourage the growth of solar energy at the local level. SolSmart provides clear guidance and templates to help jurisdictions put these practices into action.

The SolSmart Standard Criteria pathway is organized into five categories: Permitting and Inspection, Planning and Zoning, Government Operations, Community Engagement, and Market Development. Within each category are specific actions that municipalities, counties, and regional organizations can take to encourage local solar energy use.

Some of the criteria are prerequisites, while others are elective. Each criteria has a corresponding point value. Upon meeting the prerequisites and reaching a sufficient number of points in each category, a participant qualifies for SolSmart designation. This flexible process allows a local government to select a plan that is best tailored to their community.

The SolSmart criteria are determined by an advisory committee of experts in solar energy and local government. These criteria are updated periodically in order to reflect the latest best practices. As a result, local governments designated in previous years may have met a slightly different list of criteria. The SolSmart team will work with them to update these records if they are interested in moving to a higher level of designation.

Designation Pathways

A local government or regional organization will follow one of three designation pathways, depending on what processes are available in their jurisdiction. A technical assistance provider will work with you to determine the appropriate pathway.

Standard Criteria

 Local governments that control permitting, inspection, planning, and zoning use the Standard Designation Criteria. Most communities use this pathway.


Modified or County Criteria

Local governments that do not control permitting, inspection, planning, and/or zoning use the Modified/County Designation Criteria. This criteria is appropriate for certain counties that do not have control over one or more of those processes.


Regional Organization Criteria

Regional organizations are eligible for SolSmart designation. Multi-jurisdictional organizations such as regional councils or councils of government use the Regional Organization Designation Criteria.

The criteria listed below are based on the Standard Criteria pathway. Please download the following PDF documents to read about the Modified/County Criteria and the Regional Organization Criteria.

SolSmart Standard Criteria by Category

Permitting and Inspection (PI)

20 Credits | 205 Points
Most local governments have direct oversight of the permitting and inspection policies and procedures within their jurisdiction. Communities that implement permitting best practices provide solar developers and installers with a transparent, efficient, and cost-effective approval process. Well-trained staff and completed permit applications can reduce staff time needed to review permits which allows them to focus on other priorities. Clear inspection procedures ensure compliance with applicable state and local codes while protecting public health and safety.

Planning and Zoning (PZ)

23 Credits | 185 Points
Local government planning and zoning regulations can help facilitate the rapid expansion of solar energy within a community while ensuring compliance with development standards. Communities can utilize planning and zoning regulations to provide maximum siting options for rooftop and ground-mounted solar energy while preserving community character and historic resources. Incorporating solar energy in local planning documents sets a community’s vision for the integration of solar energy with other land uses. Zoning codes should contain language that provides clear and transparent regulations on the development and use of solar energy within the jurisdiction.

Government Operations (GO)

10 Credits | 160 Points
Local governments can lead the way by installing solar energy on public facilities and land. Communities can engage with their local utility to expand opportunities for solar energy, net metering, interconnection, and community solar. These actions are high impact and can directly lead to more megawatts of solar energy on the local grid.

Community Engagement (CE)

12 Credits | 70 Points
Local governments are an important and trusted source of information for residents, businesses, and solar installers. Posting information on the local government’s website, providing public education, and engagement opportunities can help residents and businesses interested in solar energy make informed decisions.

Market Development (MD)

10 Credits | 155 Points
Local governments can collaborate and partner with organizations to promote solar development within their jurisdiction. Supporting a community solar program, promoting a solarize group-buy campaign, or partnering with a local financial institution can make solar energy more affordable and accessible for homes and businesses while improving business opportunities for solar installers.

SolSmart Program Guide

If you’re ready to learn more about the Application Criteria, download the SolSmart program guide now. The guide includes a complete list of the criteria under each category, the points awarded, and resources and templates for achieving each.

Download PDF

Points Chart: Achieving SolSmart Designation

There are three levels of SolSmart designation for local governments. Below are the requirements for each level under the Standard Criteria pathway. Complete details on each criteria can be found in the SolSmart Program Guide.
Bronze Level Badge

3 Prerequisite Criteria

  • Complete the Solar Statement (PR-1)
  • Complete Solar Permitting Checklist (PI-1)
  • Complete Zoning Review (PZ-1)

60 Total Points

  • 20 points in Permitting and Inspection
  • 20 points in Planning and Zoning
  • 20 points from remaining categories