Using their status as SolSmart Advisor, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus took a collaborative approach to earn the most SolSmart designated communities of any state. A membership-based council of governments in the Chicago region, the Caucus is built on a foundation of regional collaboration. The Caucus leveraged this collaborative culture to create the Greenest Region Compact (GRC), a municipal pledge to support consensus sustainability goals, now supported by 128 municipalities serving more than six million residents. Clearly articulated in the GRC are goals and strategies that neatly align with the SolSmart program. This alignment enabled municipalities and counties to easily get on board with the Caucus’ SolSmart cohort, and the Caucus led 35 communities to earn SolSmart designation.
The Caucus convened municipal candidates for SolSmart designation and laid out an ambitious work plan for all to earn no less than SolSmart bronze designation. With biweekly conference calls, the cohort worked together to take actions toward designation. For example, building inspectors shared their processes for approving permits and helped envision streamlined permitting processes for photovoltaic (PV). The Caucus gathered specific information about existing permitting processes and together the cohort developed a template permitting checklist to help all candidates develop the requisite permitting checklist. The Caucus also worked with partners like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to offer valuable hands-on training for inspection staff.
The collaboration between these two cohorts resulted in 16 bronze designated communities, nine silver designees, and 10 gold designees. These designations were proudly celebrated by all designees, dignitaries, and the solar industry at Argonne National Lab. The solar industry has taken notice and at least three SolSmart designated communities (Beach Park, Hanover Park, and Schaumburg) have reported extraordinary growth in the number of solar permits issued in their communities. In fact, Mayor Rodney Craig of Hanover Park (SolSmart Gold) also earned honorable mention in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Award in June 2019 for his extraordinary success with SolSmart.
By taking advantage of their unique position to facilitate cooperation between municipalities, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus is finding new ways of encouraging sustainability at a regional level. In recognition of these innovative efforts to advance solar energy, the city of Metropolitan Mayors Caucus was presented with the SolSmart Innovation Award in November 2019.
This case study was written by SolSmart team member Gabriel Rusk, Assistant Program Manager at the International City/County Management Association.