Awarded “SolSmart Bronze” Designation during Last Week’s NACo Conference
During the Resilient Counties Forum at the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference and Exposition held on Sunday, July 23rd
at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Franklin County was awarded a SolSmart Bronze designation for taking important steps to encourage solar energy growth in the county.
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. Franklin County is being recognized for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar.
“I’m proud of our efforts to become national leaders in the green energy economy, and specifically solar energy,” said Commissioner John O’Grady. “In spite of what may be going on at the federal and state level, we remain committed here in Franklin County to supporting environmental sustainability and jobs of the future.”
Franklin County is the first municipality in the State of Ohio to receive a SolSmart designation, and one of just 17 counties and 78 municipalities nationwide to do so. To achieve the 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.
“We are always looking for ways to enhance our services for the residents of Franklin County.” said Commissioner Marilyn Brown. “We value the outside expertise from the SolSmart team to help us improve what we do and to make it easier for our residents and businesses to go solar.”
Specific actions undertaken by the county’s Economic Development & Planning Department include: updating the permitting process for photovoltaic/solar energy systems, creating solar guidelines for historic districts throughout the county, completing an internal review of zoning regulations and inspection process, and providing links to solar installers and an interactive solar map online
. Franklin County also received points for solar arrays at county facilities and the Energy Works
program which provides loan financing to Franklin County businesses and nonprofit organizations to increase the energy efficiency of both existing and new facilities, while reducing energy costs and carbon emissions, and stimulating economic growth.
“I am grateful for the help of the SolSmart program to identify areas where we can do better as local government to spur solar energy investment in our community,” said Commissioner Kevin L. Boyce. “I hope we’ll go for the gold and do even better going forward.”
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 actions are designated as gold, silver, or bronze. As a bronze designee, Franklin County 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.
For more information on the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, log on to: commissioners.franklincountyohio.gov
SolSmart is a national designation and technical assistance program that recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to expand their local solar markets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, SolSmart strives to cut red tape, drive greater solar deployment, and make it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs. Learn more at SolSmart.org.
About the SunShot Initiative
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.