This page provides a detailed description of each criterion in the Standard Pathway: Government Operations 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: Government Operations
Local governments can lead the way by installing solar energy on public facilities and land. Communities can engage with their local utility to discuss goals for solar energy, net metering, interconnection, and community solar. These actions are high impact and can directly lead to an increase in solar energy deployment.
Many of the criteria in the government operations 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 Standard Pathway includes 14 criteria for Government Operations, totaling 185 points.
GO-1 (20 Points)
Install solar PV on local government facilities and/or local government-controlled land.
Local governments can 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. Local governments 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. A signed contract for project installation is also an acceptable form of verification.
GO-2 (10 Points)
Discuss community goals for solar PV, net metering, community solar, and/or interconnection processes with the local utility and explore areas for future collaboration.
Local governments can leverage their relationship with electric utilities to encourage increased support for, and development of, solar energy. Local governments and utilities can partner to provide community solar programs, solar incentives, and help improve the solar interconnection process. Utilities can also help local governments meet municipal or community-wide renewable energy goals by procuring large amount of solar energy.
Recommended Verification: Provide meeting minutes (including a list of follow-up action items), e-mail correspondence, meeting agenda, materials prepared for the meeting (e.g., handouts and slides), or other evidence that at least one meeting occurred with your local utility.
GO-3 (10 Points)
Coordinate with regional organizations and/or local governments to engage utilities on advancing solar policies such as utility procurement of solar PV, green tariffs, and/or interconnection process improvements.
Local governments can find strength in numerous as they advance ambitious energy transformation goals. Collaborating with other local governments and/or regional organizations (such as Councils of Government and Regional Planning Councils) 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.
Recommended Verification: Provide details about your community’s participation in coordinated efforts between local governments and/or regional organizations to engage utilities with the goal of advancing solar initiatives.
GO-4 (20 Points)
Demonstrate coordination between local government inspectors and utility staff to reduce Permission to Operate timeline for solar PV.
A solar system that has not been granted permission to operate (PTO), is not allowed to produce electricity which can have economic impacts for the system owner. To reduce economic loss, local governments can coordinate with the electric utility to ensure solar PV systems can begin operation as soon as it has been confirmed that the systems are properly constructed and connected to the grid. Consolidating and/or coordinating local government inspections and utility interconnection inspections can save time and money for solar installers and property owners.
Recommended Verification: Provide details about the coordination process and explaining how this process reduces the time between inspection and Permission to Operate
GO-5 (10 Points)
Conduct feasibility analysis for solar PV on local government facilities and/or local government-controlled land.
Local governments 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. Communities that receive GO-6, GO-7 or GO-8 may also receive GO-5 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.
GO-6 (20 Points)
Install solar PV integrated with other technologies such as battery storage or electric vehicle charging on local government facilities and/or local government-controlled land.
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) integrated with other technologies including total number of systems, size, location, technologies used, and photos.
GO-7 (20 Points)
Install solar PV on local government-controlled brownfields and/or under-utilized properties.
As large, open spaces with limited future uses, brownfields, landfills, and other under-utilized lands are favorable locations for solar PV systems. Local governments can lease these lands for solar development to increase locally installed solar capacity while generating land lease revenue.
Recommended Verification: Provide a news article, a press release announcing the commissioned system, or webpage that summarizes the details of the installation(s) including total number of systems, size, location, and photos.
GO-8 (10 Points)
Require new local government facilities and/or facility retrofits meeting a specific threshold to be solar ready.
Local governments can lead by example and require new facilities or those completing a retrofit to be solar ready. Solar ready construction can reduce the installation costs if a solar system will be installed at some point in the future. Solar ready buildings are designed and engineered in such a way that allows for the easy installation of a future solar system.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to adopted code(s) or language that require new construction and/or retrofits of local government facilities to be solar ready.
GO-9 (20 Points)
Procure solar energy for municipal operations through an offsite physical PPA, virtual PPA, green tariff, or similar structure.
To meet climate and energy goals, local governments 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 local government has procured solar energy.
GO-10 (5 Points)
Obtain a Community Benefits Agreement with solar developer for solar installation.
A community benefits agreement (CBA) is a contract between a developer and one or more community groups or organizations. The CBA outlines benefits the developer will deliver to the community in exchange for community support of the solar project. A CBA goes above and beyond a typical siting or development agreement, which commonly list annual local tax payments or local infrastructure upgrades (e.g. road repavement). Examples of common CBA benefits include jobs training programs, local hiring goals, and living wage requirements.
Recommended Verification: A copy of the CBA or a public document that summarizes the details of the CBA.
GO-11 (10 Points)
Post metrics related to the number of municipal solar PV or solar PV plus storage/EV installations and installed capacity, municipal solar PV energy procured (ownership, PPAs, community solar offtake), and percent (%) of municipal energy usage offset by renewable energy.
Posting metrics publicly provides transparency and allows community members to understand how the community is progressing toward its goals. This is an important way to create accountability and will help identify the need to implement further actions if goals are not being met. Metrics must be updated annually at a minimum, but communities should strive for quarterly updates. Please specify the reporting period for which the posted metrics apply.
Recommended Verification: Provide a link to this information on the solar landing page. Include date when the information was last updated and date tracking began.
GO-12 (10 Points)
Directly install or provide technical or financial support for the installation of solar PV on affordable housing, multifamily housing, community-based organizations, and/or resilience hubs.
Local governments can partner with community-serving organizations, housing developers and managers of resilience hubs to support the implementation of solar. Local governments may be able to offer technical support if they have relevant expertise for example in project development, energy or project finance. In other instances, local governments may be able to offer direct financial support to these projects.
Recommended Verification: Provide links and/or a signed memo outlining the support provided.
GO-13 (10 Points)
Train local government staff on regulatory and (where applicable) wholesale market barriers to solar deployment and potential engagement pathways to address these barriers. Training must have occurred in the past two years.
Regular solar PV training, at least every two years, is a best practice to ensure local government staff are up to date on regulatory practices and wholesale markets. Trainings increase staff knowledge of solar energy system deployment and ensures they know the best procedures to address any barriers. Increased staff knowledge can improve involvement in the regulatory process, making their needs and concerns heard. Local governments can require staff to attend full or half-day workshops (either live or online) and provide resources designed to help keep staff informed about advances in solar and storage technologies.
Recommended Verification: Provide a signed memo with details about the regulatory and wholesale market training training including name of training, name of trainer, attendees (name, title, department), date and time, location.
GO-14 (10 Points)
Train local government staff on best practices and issues regarding solar interconnection with the local utility. Training must have occurred within the past two years.
Regular solar PV training, at least every two years, is a best practice to ensure local government staff are equipped to work with the local utility on interconnection issues. Trainings increase staff knowledge of the solar interconnection process to the grid, thereby decreasing time from installation to an active PV system. Local governments can require staff to attend full or half-day workshops (either live or online) and provide resources designed to help keep staff informed about advances in solar and storage technologies.
Recommended Verification: Provide a signed memo with details about the interconnection training including name of training, name of trainer, attendees (name, title, department), date and time, location.