In partnership with the Ramsey County, Minnesota Government, the Metropolitan Council, and the Great Plains Institute, SolSmart co-hosted the 2019 Annual MN SolSmart Solar Permitting Best Practices Workshop yesterday in Maplewood, Minnesota. The event convened leading solar communities in Minnesota for a solar permitting training seminar, panel discussion, and SolSmart designation ceremony. In attendance in person and via webinar were local solar installers, several prospective SolSmart communities, and dozens of representatives from designated communities and communities working toward designation in Minnesota.
The day began with a ceremony congratulating designated communities for their bold actions to make installing solar faster, easier, and more affordable. All designees have streamlined the solar permitting process with a turnaround time of less than ten days and many established rooftop PV solar as a by-right accessory use in all zoning districts. The City of Edina, Minnesota, also developed a city-owned community solar project atop the Public Works building. This project is fully subscribed with 68 Edina households. The solar leadership from these local governments has likely spurred the creation of many local solar jobs. In fact, according to The Solar Foundation’s 2018 National Solar Jobs Census, the Minneapolis/St. Paul region is one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas for solar jobs growth.
After the ceremony, we heard from Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt. Commissioner Reinhardt has a long history of environmental activism. She was a founding board member and chairperson of the Recycling Association of Minnesota from 1989 to 1991 as well as chairperson of the City of White Bear Lake Recycling Advisory Committee. Today, she is the Chair of the Energy, Environment and Land Use Steering Committee of the National Association of Counties. Commissioner Reinhardt spoke about the importance of the County’s recent SolSmart designation and the actions they have taken to reduce emissions and advance solar energy.
Then, SolSmart’s solar permitting expert Bill Brooks kicked off a training workshop for local installers and officials from communities working toward designation. He discussed the purposes of simplifying the permitting process and broke down the key elements and requirements to develop a streamlined permitting process in Minnesota.
After the permitting workshop, Cameran Bailey, SolSmart Advisor and Solar Planner for the Metropolitan Council, facilitated a Q and A session with officials from Minnesota communities. Officials from the City of Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis Park, and many others shared lesson learned and best practices from their experience integrating solar energy into local processes.
Overall, this day of celebration and learning proved Minnesota is emerging as national leader on solar energy, and SolSmart is excited help communities in the Twin Cities region, and the North Star State as a whole, achieve their ambitious solar goals.