Cities can earn national recognition and prizes by showcasing their support for solar energy.
Solar energy experienced a record-setting year in 2016 as 14,762 megawatts of solar PV became operational across the U.S. For the first time ever, solar energy was the leading source of new electric generating capacity added to the U.S. energy mix, beating out wind and natural gas. Cities played a strong role in making that happen.
From coast to coast, there are examples of cities leading the way by installing solar panels on the rooftops of city halls, fire stations, libraries and old municipal landfills. Cities also realize they can promote solar in other ways, and are making it easier for local homes and businesses to install solar by streamlining their permitting processes or updating zoning codes.
Cities that embrace solar energy recognize the value it brings to the community: local, well-paying jobs. The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 from the Solar Foundation found that 1 out of every 50 new jobs added in the U.S. was in the solar industry. The report documented 260,077 solar workers in 2016 – just as many as in the natural gas industry.
The National League of Cities (NLC) supports local solar energy leadership and is a proud partner of SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. SolSmart recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to become solar leaders through customized technical assistance. NLC recently recognized the latest group of SolSmart designated communities at its 2017 Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C.
New SolSmart Communities:
- SolSmart Gold: New York City and Louisville, Kentucky
- SolSmart Bronze: Maricopa County, Arizona; Moab, Utah; Plano, Texas; Salt Lake City; and Summit County, Utah
SolSmart Communities Achieving a Higher Designation:
- SolSmart Gold: Denver
- SolSmart Silver: Charleston County, South Carolina, and Pinecrest, Florida
NLC wants to see more cities become SolSmart designees. To that end, we are launching the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge, a new national competition for cities to showcase their support for solar energy. The SolSmart City Challenge will run from Monday, April 3, until Friday, June 30. Cities can join the challenge by completing a SolSmart scorecard.
The SolSmart City Challenge has two categories (one winner from each).
- SolSmart City MVP: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points total after the initial submission of a SolSmart scorecard.
- SolSmart Most Improved: This award will go to the city with the highest verified points improvement between initial submission of a scorecard and resubmission of a SolSmart scorecard. Cities in this category will work with SolSmart technical assistance providers to complete more actions and acquire more points. Resubmissions must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on June 30. Only one resubmission is allowed.
The prizes for the two winners of the SolSmart City Challenge include:
- Travel reimbursement to attend the 2017 NLC City Summit, November 15-18 in Charlotte, North Carolina
- Presentation opportunity at the City Summit during a workshop on Energy & Climate
- Presentation opportunity during a future NLC webinar on SolSmart
- Recognition in NLC communication platforms, including The Weekly, the official newsletter of the National League of Cities, as well as NLC’s official blog, CitiesSpeak, and our social media channels
- SolSmart City Challenge Winning Certificate
Email Nick Kasza if you’d like to get started on the SolSmart scorecard or learn more about the SolSmart City Challenge. If you have a story or picture to share about solar energy impacting your community, send it to Nick and it may be featured in a future blog post.
Please note: the 2017 SolSmart City Challenge is open to new city submissions only. Cities that submitted a SolSmart scorecard prior to April 3, 2017, are not eligible. Previous submissions, SolSmart Early Adopter Communities, and communities with a SolSmart Advisor are also ineligible for the SolSmart City Challenge.
About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.