Rooftop solar panels next to a chimney. Green trees and other rooftops appear in the background.

Introducing SolSmart

SolSmart is a national program that helps cities, towns, counties, and regional organizations become solar energy leaders.

With the help of the SolSmart technical assistance team, local governments are becoming “open for solar business.”

SolSmart is led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

The SolSmart program has two key parts. First, the program provides no-cost technical assistance to help local governments follow national best practices to expand solar energy use in their jurisdictions. Second, it recognizes and celebrates these communities with SolSmart designations of Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

To date, 527 local governments in 43 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have achieved SolSmart designation, representing over 117 million people.

A cornerstone of SolSmart’s efforts will be to further the goals of the federal Justice40 initiative to provide equitable opportunities for underserved communities which face barriers including fossil dependence, energy burden, environmental and climate hazards, and socio-economic vulnerabilities.

Want more info? Read below, or download an overview here.

Why Join SolSmart?

Whether your community is new to solar energy or an established leader, the SolSmart program can be beneficial in a number of ways. Here are some of the advantages of becoming a SolSmart community:

SolSmart Technical Assistance

SolSmart’s technical assistance team includes partner organizations with expertise on solar energy and local government. Every municipality, county, and regional organization is eligible to receive this technical assistance at no cost.

The technical assistance team works with communities to meet the SolSmart Criteria, which are based on national best practices to encourage solar energy use at the local level. Each local government works with the technical assistance provider to meet these criteria and achieve SolSmart designation.

This one-on-one assistance is supplemented by SolSmart’s extensive resource library which includes toolkits, training presentations, webinars, and other reports to help meet a community’s needs.

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SolSmart designees are in 43 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

527 communities have received SolSmart designation.

SolSmart designees represent over 117 million people.

SolSmart Designation

Once they meet the Application Criteria, local governments are rewarded with a SolSmart designation of SolSmart Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze. A SolSmart designation provides official recognition that the local government has made a commitment to solar energy and removed obstacles to growth. For companies looking to move into the area, it’s a sign that the community is “open for solar business.”

SolSmart designees range from the nation’s largest cities to small towns, rural counties, suburbs, and regional organizations. To learn more, view our map and click on any SolSmart designee to learn about SolSmart designees and their accomplishments.

View Our Designees View Designation Criteria

SolSmart Success Stories:

No matter where they are located, local governments and regional organizations can make a pivotal difference in helping solar energy thrive. For example:

SolSmart’s Past and Future

The SolSmart program launched in 2016 with an initial grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. An important goal of the program is to reduce solar “soft costs,” the non-hardware costs that include permitting, financing, and installing solar. These costs make up about two-thirds of the cost of a solar installation. Actions that local governments take can significantly reduce soft costs and encourage nationwide solar energy growth.

SolSmart designees include the nation’s largest cities as well as small towns, suburbs, rural counties, and regional organizations. These include over 50 communities in the Chicago metro area that worked together to achieve regional goals; rural communities in Southwest Virginia in transition from a coal mining economy; a regional organization expanding solar in central Pennsylvania; Puerto Rico communities meeting local resilience goals; and many, many more.

The Department of Energy has extended the SolSmart program for an additional five years through 2027. In this expanded program, SolSmart will achieve at least 500 new designations, and at least 200 of these will come from jurisdictions that the DOE recognizes as underserved.

In 2023, SolSmart released updated designation criteria with added emphasis on clean energy equity, national codes and standards, innovative financing, data collection and metrics, and battery storage, among other areas. SolSmart also announced a new Platinum designation to recognize local governments with exceptional achievements. 

The expanded SolSmart program aims to streamline and accelerate solar deployment to achieve the DOE goal of decarbonizing the energy sector by 2035.

Join us today to help your community work toward SolSmart designation.

Four photos of various communities holding their SolSmart designation plaques.