A special thanks to SolSystems for the banner image.
Solar energy is great way to save money while helping protect the environment. Additionally, using solar power supports local industries and creates well-paying local jobs. For these reasons, local governments around the country are increasingly excited about solar – from both a procurement and a policy perspective.
Local Solar Policies:
Local governments play a big role in shaping their local solar market. Municipalities set zoning rules that dictate where solar installations can be located, and how they are to be installed. Municipalities also manage the permitting and inspection process, which is critical to getting a solar installation approved and turned on in a timely fashion.
Municipalities in the metro DC area are participating in the Solar Roadmap – an online tool that benchmarks local solar policies and programs against national best practices. It also provides a curated resource library with reports, case studies, templates and other resources to help local governments develop and implement sound solar policies.
The Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA) is the association of solar companies in the metro DC area. MDV-SEIA is a good resource for identifying solar installers and financers, as well as gathering industry perspectives on planning and policy issues.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Maryland, DC, Virginia Solar Energy Industry Association (MDV-SEIA) developed Recommendations for Residential Solar PV Permitting and Inspections for localities in the metro DC area. The recommendations are intended to foster regional consistency and to streamline permitting operations, which reduces costs for residents, solar companies and local governments alike. The toolkit includes:
The American Planning Association: Guide and Essential Information on Planning and Zoning for Solar Energy is a great resource for all solar-related zoning and planning issues. It includes case studies and guidance on setting goals, developing solar-friendly policies, and regulating solar energy development.
The Delaware Valley Regional Commission has developed a Solar Energy Ordinance Framework, which provides guidance and example language for creating a zoning process that ensures proper siting, installation, and maintenance of a solar PV system.
Homeowner's Associations (HOAs) may develop guidelines for solar installations in their communities. COG worked with a northern Virginia HOA to develop a policy that balanced concerns over safety, aesthetics, and energy self-sufficiency. These Solar Guidelines are public, and may be used as a template or model by other communities and HOAs.
Financial incentives and financing options are very important for making solar affordable for residents, businesses, and public agencies. The DSIRE Database provides up-to-date information on clean energy incentives available from local governments and utilities across the country.
The DC Department of Energy and Environment provides information on solar incentive programs on their EnergySmart DC webpage.
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy posts available rebates and tax credits on their Energy Incentives webpage.
Many local governments in the metro DC area are purchasing solar power to reduce their electricity costs. Procurement can be a complicated process, but there are many resources available to help:
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council 2015 Solar Power Purchase Agreements: a Toolkit for Local Governments is a helpful step-by-step guide to using a solar PPA. The toolkit also includes a customizable template: Site License, Site Easement, Site Lease, and Sample Power Purchase Agreement.
Purchasing Power: Best Practices Guide to Collaborative Solar Procurement is a step-by-step guide for bulk solar procurement across several agencies. The guide also includes two case studies: Joint Venture’s Silicon Valley Collaborative Renewable Energy Procurement Project (a public-sector initiative) and WRI’s Collaborative Solar Project (a private-sector initiative).
Solar Powering America has hundreds of resources on solar energy for commercial, residential, rural, state and local government, financial, and workforce development audiences. Solar Powering America is an interagency initiative that coordinates federal efforts toward the President’s Climate Action Plan solar energy goals.
The SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs) is designed to help accelerate solar energy adoption on the local level by providing timely and actionable information to local governments. SolarOPs provides a mix of educational workshops, peer-to-peer sharing opportunities, research-based reports, and online resources. SolarOPs is part of the U.S. DOE SunShot Initiative.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) gathers NREL solar technology and deployment experts to provide unbiased information on solar policies and issues for state and local government decision makers.
Local solar industries are growing rapidly, and driving broader economic growth around the country. According to the National Solar Jobs Census, solar jobs represented 1.2% of all new jobs in 2015, and employers expect that solar jobs will increase 14.7% over the next year (to 239,625 solar workers).
Local governments and community groups can play a role in supporting local solar jobs. Check out the resources below for more information and opportunities.
The Solar Energy Industries Association's (SEIA) Workforce Development Network provides information and resources on solar training programs, licensing and certifications.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) develops solar accreditation and certification programs.
GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit that works to expand solar access in low income communities. Grid Alternatives runs several programs to provide on-the-ground training for solar trainees, and helps connect employers to job seekers.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Energy Education Resources provide information about available jobs, career pathways and training programs.
City of Gaithersburg Old Town Youth Center
The City of Gaithersburg's second green municipal building, complete with solar PV, geothermal heating and cooling, insulation made of soybeans, floors made from recycled tires, and more.
U.S. Department of Energy FORRESTAL BUILDING
This rooftop solar PV array, installed in 2008, consists of 205 kW of crystalline silicon solar PV, and four small 1 kW arrays showcasing varying types of photovoltaic technology. The system generates about 230 MWh of electricity per year, and saves the federal government around $26,000 in electricity costs per year. A special thanks to U.S Department of Energy for providing the photographs featured below.