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Modified Pathway: Community Engagement

This page includes the complete list of criteria for the Community Engagement category in the SolSmart Modified Pathway.

This page provides a detailed description of each criterion in the Modified Pathway: Community Engagement category. It includes recommended verification for designation review, community examples, templates, and/or resources.

Learn more about the SolSmart designation process here. To access this information in a PDF document, download the SolSmart Program Guide.

Overview: Community Engagement

County government can be an important and trusted source of information for residents, businesses, and solar installers. Posting information on the county government’s website, providing public education, and engagement opportunities can help residents and businesses interested in solar energy make informed decisions. County governments can support more equitable outcomes by partnering with community organizations and developing goals and strategies that meet the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Many of the criteria in the community engagement category can be verified by providing information about a community’s solar energy goals, strategies and partnerships on a local county’s solar webpage.

The Modified Pathway includes 12 Community Engagement criteria, totaling 70 points.

CE-1 (5 Points)

Post online resources about solar installers and/or solar quote platforms for solar PV.

More solar companies operating in your community means residents and businesses are faced with more choices as they consider who to select for their solar project. Providing relevant local information on active solar installers can help community members make the best choice given their circumstances. Information and resources posted should be made available in multiple languages as appropriate for your community. In addition, information and resources should be available to community members in print form if requested.

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CE-2 (5 Points)

Post online resources about residential and commercial solar PV financing options and incentives.

Many different financing options are available for residential and commercial solar PV. Counties can play an important role in providing access to information about available options. Information and resources posted should be made available in multiple languages as appropriate for your community. In addition, information and resources should be available to community members in print form if requested.

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CE-3 (5 Points)

Post online resources about consumer protection and solar PV.

Solar energy can be a new and complex topic for community members. Local governments can provide online guides and resources to help community members have a clear understanding of solar PV, allowing them to make informed decisions. Information and resources posted should be made available in multiple languages as appropriate for your community. In addition, information and resources should be available to community members in print form if requested.

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CE-4 (5 Points)

Post an online summary of state policies related to a property owner’s solar access and solar rights, including links to state-level policy.

Community members are often unaware that state policy could impact their property’s solar rights. Solar rights and solar access are terms which describe the ability of property owners to utilize sunlight on their property. Each state has its own unique policy and enforcement regime. Information and resources posted should be made available in multiple languages as appropriate for your community. In addition, information and resources should be available to community members in print form if requested.

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CE-5 (5 Points)

Post an online summary of state policies related to Home Owner Associations (HOAs) ability to regulate and/or restrict solar PV, including links to state-level policy.

Homeowner Associations often aim to impose restrictive measures on solar PV systems. Community members should be aware of state policy that defines what HOAs are allowed and not allowed to do in terms of regulating solar PV systems. Information and resources posted should be made available in multiple languages as appropriate for your community. In addition, information and resources should be available to community members in print form if requested.

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CE-6 (5 Points)

Post online resources about for low-to-moderate income (LMI) financing options and LMI incentives.

Some low-to-moderate income (LMI) financing options may be available for residential and commercial solar PV in your county or state. Counties can play an important role in providing access to information about available options. Information and resources posted should be made available in multiple languages as appropriate for your community. In addition, information and resources should be available to community members in print form if requested.

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CE-7 (5 Points)

Post an online solar map for your county.

Solar maps can be a helpful and visual way to communicate solar potential to community members. Solar maps can be customized depending on the goals and needs of the community. For example, solar maps can provide community members with an estimate of the solar potential of their rooftop, they can be used the location of solar installations within a community (which may help residents understand the extent of solar projects happening in different parts of the community), or they may be used to communicate the potential for different solar installations (i.e., residential, commercial, large-scale, community solar, etc.).

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CE-8 (5 Points)

Engage the community through recurring public meetings, focus groups, or other similar events around climate, energy, or sustainability plans and/or goals. Meetings should occur at minimum twice per year.

An engaged and informed community can encourage solar market growth and increase the likelihood that local homes and businesses will pursue solar installations. Public meetings, focus groups, and other events related to climate energy and sustainability are ways to engage community members. These meetings can be an opportunity to educate the public about opportunities for solar as well as get input on potential solar strategies, identify goals and discuss progress.

Recommended Verification: Provide a link(s) to details about the meeting or event such as an agenda, date, time, location, and attendance.

CE-9 (5 Points)

Support an annual solar informational session and/or solar tour explaining solar PV opportunities and policies. Show that session/tour was made accessible to all members of the community including those in disadvantaged communities.

An engaged and informed community can encourage solar market growth and increase the likelihood that local homes and businesses will pursue solar installations. Solar informational sessions and solar tours are ways to educate community members about the solar energy and the processes involved with an installation. Counties should ensure that sessions are inclusive and accessible to a diverse audience.

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CE-10 (5 Points)

At least annually, partner with local colleges, workforce or economic development organizations/commissions, etc. to host renewable energy career fairs, networking events, or jobs trainings.

As local solar markets grow, counties can promote solar job opportunities with community colleges and workforce development organizations to ensure a well-trained, local workforce. The organization should provide technical and monetary assistance, provide connections and information. The event that results as an outcome from this partnership should be publicly co-hosted and marketed by the county.

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CE-11 (5 Points)

Demonstrate county level support for local solar projects through speeches, press releases, opinion articles, etc.

Local governments can encourage solar market growth by highlighting solar energy goals, initiatives, and success stories through various communications strategies. Share the links and/or videos of communications efforts on the organization’s solar landing page.

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CE-12 (10 Points)

Discuss solar PV goals and/or strategies for increasing solar PV development, including large-scale solar plans, solar access, and/or solar adoption in disadvantaged communities, within an appropriate committee, commission, taskforce, and/or working group. (e.g., solar is a recurring agenda item during monthly sustainability commission meetings).

An Environmental Advisory Council, Sustainability Committees, or Climate Action Taskforce is a great way to keep residents and key stakeholders actively engaged in community energy policy and development. These groups can assist in the development of solar energy goals and strategies, lead community-based solar initiatives, and provide communication and outreach support to inform community members about solar initiatives and plans.

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