This page provides a detailed description of each criterion in the Modified Pathway: Planning 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.
Incorporating solar energy in local planning documents sets a vision for the integration of solar energy with other community goals including land use, economic development, housing, transportation, and the protection of historic and cultural resources, among others. Plans also provide an opportunity to identify specific targets for solar deployment and the identification of strategies to meet those targets. While community’s using the modified pathway do not directly control permitting, inspection or other regulatory processes, they can create goals that relate to these processes and can help to coordinate trainings or provide resources.
Many of the criteria in the planning category can be verified by providing a link to a community’s plans.
The Modified Pathway includes 7 Planning criteria, totaling 160 points.
P-1 (5 Points)
Review existing county planning documents and identify new opportunities (not already included) to integrate solar PV and solar PV integrated with other technologies, such as battery storage or electric vehicle charging, into planning goals.
Counties should consider opportunities to integrate solar PV and other technologies into other applicable planning processes. Organizations should review transportation, climate, land use, economic development, and other plans to consider how solar can be included to support all of the organization’s planning efforts.
Recommended Verification: Signed memo summarizing opportunities and next steps.
P-2 (5 Points)
Draft new or updated language and provide a timeline for the inclusion of specific solar PV goals, metrics, and strategies into existing and/or future county plans.
Planning documents provide the foundation for a community’s vision for how and where it would like future development to occur. Development is governed largely by the components of the comprehensive plan and guided by the policies and strategies outlined in other functional plans such as a Climate Action Plan or Sustainability Plan. These planning documents should align to have solar energy goals, metrics, and strategies that promote solar development in an organized and efficient manner.
Recommended Verification: Provide draft language of the proposed plan changes that relate to solar energy and a timeline for inclusion in future plans.
P-3 (10 Points)
Include specific solar PV goals, metrics, and strategies in the most current version of relevant county plans (e.g., energy plan, climate plan, comprehensive plan).
Counties should utilize the work of P-2 and ensure that the goals, metrics and strategies they have drafted are fully integrated into the appropriate plans.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to the relevant plans that incorporate solar PV goals, metrics, and/or strategies. Please indicate the relevant section(s).
P-4 (10 Points)
Include solar PV progress towards achieving targets in the most current published version of relevant local plans (e.g., energy plan, climate plan, comprehensive plan).
Publicly reporting progress toward solar goals helps to create transparency and accountability. These metrics allow local governments to see the impacts of their policies and identify the need to adjust their strategies. To be meaningful, metrics must be updated annually at a minimum, but communities should strive for quarterly updates.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to this information posted on the organization’s website or solar landing page. Please specify the reporting period for which the reported metrics apply and date they were last updated.
P-5 (10 Points)
Collaborate with local inspection departments to develop a solar PV inspection checklist for the region and post on the solar landing page developed as part of PR- 2.
Counties can support member-communities and their inspection departments, facilitating development of a uniform county-wide inspection checklist tailored to the preferences of member-communities and adapted to suit the local landscape. Including inspection staff in the development process and making this resource available via the County’s solar landing page can ensure all communities have access to a template inspection checklist regardless of their SolSmart status.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to the inspection checklist and documentation that the resource has been shared with communities in the region, such as a newsletter, email, meeting minutes, etc.
P-6 (10 Points)
Develop an inventory of sites suitable for large-scale solar PV within the county.
Counties can proactively identify sites in the county that are favorable for solar PV projects. Identifying sites that have high solar potential and the best characteristics for large-scale solar development can reduce potential conflicts between solar and other land uses, enable member-communities to incorporate large-scale solar development into their future plans, and speed up the project development timeline. These inventories do not need to include every potential site, but may focus on a particular type or scale or project, a portion of the region, etc. as is most meaningful and valuable to the county.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to the large-scale solar PV analysis inventory conducted for the county.
P-7 (10 Points)
Provide a training for local officials on ways large-scale solar strategies can be supported in the region, including regulatory authority and relevant state processes. Training must have occurred in the past two years.
Large-scale solar projects are unique in many ways and require specific strategies to facilitate implementation. Local officials can benefit from training that helps explain the design and development process for large-scale solar projects, clarifies regulatory roles and responsibilities, and provides strategies that build support for large-scale solar projects by maximizing local benefits.
- Provide a memo with details about in-person training including name of training, name of trainer, attendees (name, title, department, affiliation), date and time, location, agenda, and presentation/slides.
- Provide a link to online training posted to a public streaming platform or the organization’s solar landing page.