Now is the Right time for Solar!  

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) supports local solar energy leadership and is a proud partner of SolSmart. SolSmart is a solar energy designation and technical assistance program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that helps prepare communities for the solar energy transition at the local level. 

SolSmart offers no-cost technical assistance from a team of national experts that work with communities to identify local priorities and strategies to help make solar energy more affordable and accessible for residents and businesses. Successful communities are awarded the designation of SolSmart Bronze, Silver, Gold or the newly developed Platinum designation. SolSmart designated communities across the U.S. recognize solar energy as a resource offering a multitude of benefits, including savings on energy bills, opportunity for economic development, and local job growth. To date, more than 500 local and regional governments have achieved SolSmart designation across 43 states, representing more than 109 million people. 

SolSmart Program Expanded for 5 Additional Years

This year, the U.S. Department of Energy and the SolSmart team expanded the program to help 500 additional communities adopt nationally recognized solar best practices. That includes awarding outstanding solar leaders the new Platinum designation and ensuring that at least 200 of the new designees are communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution, in accordance with the Justice40 Initiative. If your community has already earned SolSmart Bronze, Silver, or Gold, you can also level up to a higher level of designation. 

Now is the Right Time to Engage in Solar Programing

In addition to SolSmart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $7 billion competitive grant opportunity that will support the expansion of solar programs serving low-income and disadvantaged communities. Through the Solar for All program, up to 60 grants will be awarded to states, territories, Tribal governments, municipalities, and nonprofits.  

For many SolSmart communities, this could be an opportunity to build upon and accelerate work already underway. As described in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): “Solar for All grantees will provide subsidies and other financial assistance to residential rooftop and residential-serving community solar projects in and benefiting low-income and disadvantaged communities in addition to project-deployment technical assistance such as workforce development, community outreach, and other project-deployment support (e.g., interconnection technical assistance, siting and permitting support) to help overcome barriers to solar deployment.” 

This federal investment could be an incredible opportunity to expand solar access for low-income residents in your community! Whether you choose to apply directly, form a coalition with other communities or organizations, or coordinate with a state-led program, we encourage all SolSmart communities to consider how to take advantage of this exciting opportunity. 

Read the complete Notice of Funding Opportunity here. Applications are due September 26, 2023. All Applicants must first submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) expressing their intent to apply. The deadline for the NOI was on July 31, 2023 at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) for states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; August 14, 2023 at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) for territories (specifically, The Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), municipalities, and eligible nonprofit recipients; and August 28, 2023 at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) for Tribal governments and Intertribal Consortia. (see Section I.F.: Required Notice of Intent of the FOA for more detail). 

Need More Information?

Visit SolSmart.org to learn more and request a consultation. For additional information, the SolSmart Program Guide is an excellent, comprehensive guide that provides an overview of SolSmart and contains descriptions of the criteria, community examples, templates and other resources. 

Want to get started with SolSmart? Join us!