SolSmart awards cities, counties, and regional organizations points using objective criteria for removing obstacles to solar energy development. Communities that receive sufficient points are designated SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze.

The SolSmart Designation Criteria is organized into five categories – two Foundation Categories and three Special Focus Categories. Below you will find a summary of the five categories and the number of credits and available points in each category. Read the SolSmart Program Guide to find detailed information on each of the credits and examples from communities that achieved them.

Foundational Categories

  • Permitting and Inspection (PI)
  • Planning and Zoning (PZ)

Special Focus Categories

  • Government Operations (GO)
  • Community Engagement (CE)
  • Market Development (MD)


Permitting and Inspection | 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 | 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 | 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 discuss goals for solar energy, net metering, interconnection, and community solar. These actions are high impact that can directly lead to more megawatts of solar energy on the local grid.

Community Engagement | 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 | 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.


Learn about the SolSmart Designation Process.

Learn about the criteria, their meanings, and the program via the Program Guide.