20 Colorado Communities Now “Open for Solar Business” As State Ties Nationwide Record
Exciting news!! Twenty cities, towns, and counties in Colorado have now received designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar. Colorado now ties California for the most SolSmart designations nationwide, marking the state as a leader in the expansion of solar energy.
SolSmart designation recognizes communities for taking bold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. A SolSmart designation helps Colorado communities meet their goals for renewable energy growth, sustainability, and reduced energy costs. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart designation is a signal that they are is “open for solar business.”
The 20 SolSmart designees in Colorado include Adams County; Aurora; Boulder; Boulder County; Breckenridge; Brighton; Broomfield; Clear Creek County; Delta County; Denver; Durango; Fort Collins; Golden; Jefferson County; Lafayette; Lakewood; Longmont; Pueblo; Pueblo County; and Superior.
SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. More than 225 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016
“With a national record 20 communities now designated ‘SolSmart’, Colorado municipalities are working to ensure their citizens continue to benefit from solar energy,” said Mike Kruger, President & CEO of Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “SolSmart is helping Colorado municipalities streamline permitting processes, unlock local finance options, and implement other best practices to make solar more affordable and accessible.”
As SolSmart designees, these 20 Colorado communities cut red tape, help drive greater solar deployment, and make it possible for even more Coloradans’ homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs.
To receive designation, municipalities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting processes as well as planning and zoning procedures. SolSmart designees also develop innovations in areas such as market development and finance.
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 SolSmart 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 municipalities and counties are eligible to join the SolSmart program and receive this technical assistance. Interested communities can learn more at SolSmart.org.
“Lafayette has pledged to become a 100% renewable city by 2030 and will rely nearly exclusively on solar development to reach that goal,” said Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg. “It is projected that 56 MW of locally-sited solar energy will be needed by 2030, and the actions taken to become a SolSmart Gold recipient are already helping us develop initiatives for that capacity.”
“SolSmart helped put Pueblo ‘on the map’ and attract new renewable energy developers and interest groups to the community,” said Laura Getts, Pueblo County Energy Coordinator. “As a result of the SolSmart process, we have a much greater awareness of our community’s strengths and flaws regarding solar permitting, policy, and activism, and have since pursued planning and zoning code changes that would address lingering barriers to solar installation.”
“SolSmart has helped Denver advance its climate goals by making solar an easier and more attractive option for residents and businesses. Since we received our Gold SolSmart designation, Denver moved from 12th place to 9th place in the Frontier Group’s Shining Cities report, which ranks U.S. cities on solar policy,” said Liz Babcock, Manager, Climate Action Team in the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We encourage other communities to use SolSmart to streamline their processes for advancing the solar energy aspirations of its citizens, said Susie Strife, Boulder County Sustainability Coordinator. “Together as local governments, we can take a leadership role in addressing a changing climate.”
“Fort Collins is proud to be one of 20 SolSmart designated cities in Colorado. The SolSmart certification process has helped us streamline the process for homeowners and solar companies,” said John Phelan, Energy Services Senior Manager, Fort Collins Utilities.
“SolSmart provided invaluable guidance to support the city’s efforts to advance solar energy and sustainability,” said Imogen Ainsworth, Durango Sustainability Coordinator. “In particular, SolSmart provided an impetus, and best-practice strategies, to streamline our solar permitting process and develop an online solar landing page to enhance transparency and outreach related to solar energy in Durango.”
“Jefferson County continues to provide streamlined processes for solar PV permitting and inspections. Solar permits issued by the county in 2018 were up nearly 20% since receiving the SolSmart Gold designation in 2017, the second-most permits issued in a single year by the county,” said Jabez Meulemans, Jefferson County Sustainability Coordinator.
“Our town has made a commitment to solar energy and sustainability, and SolSmart helped make that commitment a reality. By listing solar permitting requirements online, having an average turnaround time of 2 days for residential PV permits, and allowing installers to apply for permits via email, we have ensured solar is more accessible and affordable to Superior residents and businesses. Advancing solar energy benefits the Superior community, by not only reducing our carbon footprint, but also helping us become more resilient and adaptive,” said Emily Clapper, Management Analyst, Town of Superior.
Solar successes across these 20 communities include:
- The city of Denver capped solar permits fees at $50; created a new 100% low-income community solar garden program through Xcel Energy; and subscribed city facilities to 3 community solar gardens.
- The cities of Boulder and Lafayette provide local tax incentives for solar adopters.
- Several communities including Jefferson County and the city of Broomfield offer Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for solar PV.
- The city of Durango restructured the solar permit process to make it a simple over-the-counter approval process in most cases, and established better connections with their local electric utility, fire district, and planning/permitting division to ensure smooth processing of permits while meeting code and other requirements.
- The city of Lafayette improved its solar permitting processes and developed a proposed solar ordinance which will provide clear guidance on solar development throughout the City.
- Adams County conducted a feasibility analysis for solar PV on brownfields, landfills, and other under-utilized properties.
- The city of Fort Collins offers a community solar program to its residents.