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Posted on: April 19, 2018

Linn County Designated “SolSmart Gold” for Advancing Solar Energy Growth

SolSmart Gold Award

Linn County received a Gold designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar.

SolSmart is a national organization funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that helps local governments develop solar energy in their communities.

“The SolSmart Gold designation recognizes Linn County for its leadership in encouraging solar energy growth and removing obstacles to solar development. As a result of our participation in the SolSmart program, Linn County is helping solar companies greatly reduce the cost of installations and pass those savings on to consumers. This allows even more local homes and businesses to obtain affordable, clean, and reliable electricity through solar. The actions Linn County has taken will help encourage solar companies to do business in the area, driving economic development and creating local jobs,” said Linn County Supervisor John Harris.

For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Gold designation is a signal that Linn County is “open for solar business.”

To receive designation, cities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting processes, as well as planning and zoning procedures. SolSmart designees also develop innovations in areas such as market development and finance.

Linn County followed these action items to achieve the “SolSmart Gold” designation:

  • Create and make available an online checklist detailing the steps of Linn County’s solar permitting process
  • Provide a streamlined permitting pathway for small photovoltaic (PV) solar systems (<15kW) with turn-around time of no more than 3 business days
  • Conduct a review of solar permit fees for residential and commercial solar
  • Review zoning requirements and identify restrictions that intentionally or unintentionally prohibit solar PV development
  • Adopt zoning ordinance amendments to remove restrictions impacting the development of solar PV
  • Allow solar by-right and as an accessory use in all major zoning districts
  • Eliminate excess inspections and consolidate inspection trips for solar PV
  • Support or host a community-group purchase program (e.g., Solarize Linn County) and workshop open to the general public and/or county staff explaining solar PV opportunities and policies

In 2017, Linn County and the City of Cedar Rapids also participated in a program called Solarize Cedar Rapids & Linn County, which educated residents on the benefits of solar energy and allowed individual home and commercial property owners to access lower prices for solar installations through the power of volume purchasing.

SolSmart uses objective criteria to award communities points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers to solar energy development. Communities that take sufficient action are designated either gold, silver, or bronze. More than 150 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.

SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

To learn more about the SolSmart program, visit SolSmart.org.

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