This page provides a detailed description of each criterion in the Regional Pathway: Operational Support 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: Operational Support
Regional organizations can lead the way by supporting member communities to install solar energy on public facilities and land. Regional organizations can engage with their local utility to discuss goals for solar energy, net metering, interconnection, and community solar. These are high impact actions that can directly lead to an increase in solar energy deployment.
Many of the criteria in the operational support category can be verified by providing documents demonstrating installed solar capacity such as news articles about solar installations, dashboards/metrics showing solar production, and contracts that demonstrate solar project construction.
The Modified Pathway includes 12 Operational Support criteria, totaling 150 points.
OS-1 (10 Points)
Discuss regional goals for solar PV, net metering, community solar, and/or interconnection processes with the local utility(ies) and explore areas for future collaboration. Compile summary and next steps in a memo.
Regional organizations can leverage their relationship with electric utilities to encourage increased support for, and development of, solar energy. Regional organizations and utilities can partner to provide community solar programs, solar incentives, and help improve the solar interconnection process. Utilities can also help regional organizations meet their renewable energy goals by procuring large amount of solar energy. Please note that conversations cannot include docketed proceedings that the utility is currently engaged in with the state regulatory commission.
Recommended Verification: Signed memo summarizing include number and dates of meetings, parties present, general agendas, and outcomes from the meetings.
OS-2 (10 Points)
Coordinate with member communities or other local organizations to engage utilities on advancing solar policies such as utility procurement of solar PV, green tariffs, and/or interconnection process improvements.
Organizations can find strength in numbers as they advance ambitious energy transformation goals. Collaborating with their members and/or regional organizations allows resources, expertise, and staff to be pooled together which can enhance efforts to work with utilities. Networks of communities and utilities can provide opportunities to share best practices and common strategies through peer-to-peer learning. They can also help build coalitions and advocate for state policy.
- Provides details about your organization’s participation in coordinated efforts between local governments and/or regional organizations to engage utilities with the goal of advancing solar initiatives.
OS-3 (20 Points)
Convene local inspection departments to discuss innovative inspection practices (i.e., inspection appointments, virtual inspections), and if they are feasible in the region. Regional organization to summarize results of meeting.
Ensuring an effective and expedient inspection process can reduce project costs. Host a meeting of member communities to discuss implementing virtual, photo, or another innovative inspection practice with solar and/or solar plus storage. Discuss what types of projects (e.g., residential, installations under a certain size, etc.) would qualify for virtual or photo inspections and available resources.
Recommended Verification: Provide a signed memo with details about the innovative inspection meeting including names of organizer/presenters, attendees (name, title, department, community), date and time, location, agenda, and presentation/slides.
OS-4 (10 Points)
Work with at least one community in the region to demo an instant/automatic permitting process (e.g., SolarAPP+).
Most residential solar systems are simple and standardized, but the high volume of applications can be time consuming for local permitting departments. Online automated platforms (e.g., SolarAPP+) offer a convenient and efficient way to manage solar permitting. These platforms can help local governments to stay up to date with relevant codes, catch errors, improve communication with applicants, accelerate approval for standardized PV systems, and improve record keeping. The regional organization can help identify communities that might be interested in adopting instant/automatic permitting and help them learn more.
Recommended Verification: Signed memo that includes date, attendees, presenter, summary of discussion topics and next steps.
Automated Permitting Flyer | SolSmart
Instant Permitting Example | State of California, California Energy Commission
Register for SolarAPP+ | National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
SolarAPP+ Communities | National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
SolarAPP+ Performance Case Studies | National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
OS-5 (20 Points)
Work with at least one community in the region to implement an instant/automatic permitting process (e.g., SolarAPP+).
Communities that move forward with the implementation of an instant-automatic permitting processes may benefit from the support of a regional organization. Regional organizations help garner stakeholder support for adopting instant permitting, facilitate onboarding calls between communities and the software team, help answer questions and overcome any challenges that arise.
Recommended Verification: Signed memo describing how the regional organization provided support during the implementation of instant/automatic permitting.
OS-6 (10 Points)
Conduct feasibility analysis for solar PV on public facilities and/or publicly controlled land. Compile summary and next steps in a memo.
Regional organizations can lead by example and install solar PV on their facilities and/or land to achieve clean energy goals and generate electricity cost savings. The first step is conducting a feasibility analysis to discover which rooftops or grounds have the highest solar potential and best characteristic for a solar installation. A feasibility analysis can be done using outside consultants, or with tools provided by federal agencies, such as the Department of Energy (DOE). An RFP can then be issued for the most favorable sites. An organization that receives OS-8 or OS-9 may also qualify for OS-6 if they completed a feasibility analysis as part of the project development process.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to the feasibility analysis or details about the feasibility analysis that was conducted – who conducted, what were the sites, when was it conducted, what were the recommendations and next steps.
OS-7 (20 Points)
Procure solar energy for direct use by the regional organization or a regional organization-run program or service through an offsite physical PPA, virtual PPA, green tariff, or similar structure.
To meet climate and energy goals, regional organizations can procure a large amount of solar energy through an appropriate structure, depending on the types of contracts allowed by state and utility regulations.
Recommended Verification: Provide a document such as a news article, contract, press release, or similar official document containing the details how the organization is procuring solar energy.
OS-8 (10 Points)
Install solar PV for direct use by the regional organization or a regional organization-run program or service.
Regional organizations can lead by example and install solar on their facilities and/or land to achieve clean energy goals. Solar installations can generate revenue, deliver electricity cost savings, and serve as an educational tool for organization and community members. Regional organizations are encouraged to install solar at highly visible locations to maximize the educational value.
Recommended Verification: Provide news articles, a press release announcing the commissioned system, or webpage that summarizes the details of the installation(s) including total number of systems, size, location, visibility and photos.
OS-9 (20 Points)
Install solar PV integrated with other technologies such as battery storage, or electric vehicle charging on regional organization facilities.
Solar can provide unique benefits when paired with other distributed energy technologies. Co-locating solar with other technologies can improve resilience, provide demand-charge reductions, and charging electric vehicles with a renewable source of energy.
Recommended Verification: Provide a news article, a press release announcing the commissioned system, or webpage that summarizes the details of the solar installation(s) plus storage including total number of systems, size, location, and photos.
OS-10 (10 Points)
Aggregate and publicize solar PV and storage-related details on utility interconnection processes, utility-specific resources and regulations, and state/regional regulations and incentives for member-communities to leverage. Include and regularly update details on the organization’s solar landing page.
Regional organizations can play a valuable role in researching and compiling information about policies, regulations, and incentives from utility and state entities related to solar PV and storage. Regional organizations can help make this information readily available to member communities and ensure the information is kept current.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to relevant information on the solar landing page.
OS-11 (20 Points)
Support member communities in procuring solar energy or installing solar PV for direct use for local government facilities.
Regional organizations can help member-communities lead by example and install solar on their facilities and/or land to achieve clean energy goals. Solar installations can generate revenue for local governments, deliver electricity cost savings, and serve as an educational tool for community members. If member-communities have limited feasible sites or land to install solar PV, procuring solar energy for their operations through an offsite PPA, virtual PPA, green tariff, or similar structure is also a viable option. Regional organizations can provide member communities with resources and information, technical support, help with grant applications, support to circulate RFPs and review proposals, etc.
Recommended Verification: Provide news article or press release announcing the commissioned system (or procurement), with a summary of the installation(s) including total number of systems, size, location, and photos, and how the regional organization aided the member-community’s procurement of solar energy.
OS-12 (10 Points)
Provide technical or financial support for the installation of solar PV on affordable housing, multifamily housing, community-based organizations, and/or resilience hubs.
Regional organizations can partner with community-serving organizations, housing developers and managers of resilience hubs to support the implementation of solar. Regional organizations may be able to offer technical support if they have relevant expertise for example in project development, energy or project finance. In other instances, regional organizations may be able to offer direct financial support to these projects.
Recommended Verification: Provide links and/or a signed memo outlining the support provided.