SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, is awarding a bronze designation to the City of Roanoke for taking important first steps to encourage solar energy growth.
As a SolSmart Bronze designee, the city of Roanoke is receiving national recognition for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. A SolSmart designation is a signal that the community is “open for solar business,” helping to attract solar industry investment and generate economic development and local jobs.
Mike Shockley, Director of General Services/Sustainability commented on the award, “Roanoke is proud to have received the Solsmart Bronze designation. Roanoke supports the use of clean, renewable, solar energy and understands that solar is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We want to make solar energy easily accessible to the community.”
To achieve designation, cities and counties take steps to reduce solar “soft costs,” which are non-hardware costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. Examples of soft costs include planning and zoning; permitting; financing; customer acquisition; and installation labor. Soft costs now represent roughly two-thirds of the total price of an installed residential system. Reducing these costs leads to savings that are passed on to consumers.
Roanoke leads the region in solar best practices by providing; easy access to information on the website with a single-step online permitting process, affordable fees, solar friendly zoning, and a 10% Solar Tax Abatement on city property tax.
The SolSmart designation team, led by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), evaluates communities and awards them points based on the actions they take to reduce soft costs and other barriers to going solar. Communities that take sufficient action are designed either gold, silver, or bronze. As a bronze designee, Roanoke will now have the opportunity earn additional points to qualify as silver or gold.
As part of the SolSmart program, all participating communities are eligible to request no-cost technical assistance from a team of national solar experts to help them achieve designation. The SolSmart technical assistance team is led by The Solar Foundation.
Launched in April 2016, SolSmart aims to designate 300 communities during the three-year, federally funded program.