Solar Friendly Communities

We are proud to announce that Simple Solar Living has acquired the Solar Friendly Communities project previously found at SolarCommunities.org

Our mission at Simple Solar Living is to make solar more accessible for everyone and to be the leading free online solar resource.

By merging with the Solar Friendly Community program we now are able to provide resources not just for individuals, but for communities and municipalities as well.

About Solar Communities

The Solar Friendly Communities initiative aims to encourage the expansion of solar energy by making it easier for citizens to install solar systems on their homes and businesses.

The Solar Friendly Communities project helps citizens go solar.

We work to make rooftop solar permitting easier for local governments, faster for solar installers and less expensive for residents. By bringing down costs, we encourage the spread of a locally powered, job-creating energy source that has no fuel costs and produces no pollution.

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation and promoting solar use can provide communities with a tangible economic development benefit. Streamlined processes today can yield rewards immediately and in the future.

You can take many routes to becoming a Solar Friendly Community. The program is designed to be flexible and allow participation by both larger and smaller jurisdictions.

Get started today!

12 Best Practices: A Roadmap to
a Solar Friendly Community

By following the roadmap below, your city or county can gain recognition as a Solar Friendly Community.

Each of these steps has various options that can be adapted to different community circumstances. 

1) Post Requirements

Provide a checklist of all requirements for rooftop solar PV and solar thermal permitting in a single online location.

Provide checklists of all community requirements for PV and post them online at your community website.

b. Provide checklists of all community requirements for solar thermal and post them online at your community website.

c. Designate a solar coordinator as the community lead tasked with community outreach and internal coordination among departments.

d. Provide a designated solar permitting page with information on how permits are processed and links to other related entities. Include utility interconnection procedures, applicable rebate programs, and other solar incentive programs. Post updates on available webinars and other training opportunities available to permitting officials and industry. 

2) Use A Standard Permit

Offer a standard permit form that is eligible for streamlined review for standard residential or small commercial rooftop flush-mounted systems.

a. Adopt the Solar ABC’s Expedited Permit Process for PV Systems. This national standard of procedures and forms was developed by experts and provides a way for communities to adopt a national standard.

OR: Use a standard form for PV systems eligible for expedited permitting in your community.

OR: Use the national standard Solar ABC’s Expedited Permit Process electrical plans diagram that outlines electrical requirements and explains how the system will be put together. Incorporate into your community’s permit forms.

OR: For communities within the jurisdiction of the State Electrical Board, use  a standard form for structural review of PV systems eligible for expedited permitting in your community.

b. Authorize plan checkers to communicate electronically with installers for speedy resolution of issues that arise.

c. Designate one primary point of contact for installers with questions on standard permits even if multiple departments are reviewing.

3) Streamline Processes

Offer electronic or over-the-counter submittal and review options for standard systems.

a. Offer electronic submittal, review and permit issuance.
                              
OR: Offer over-the-counter submittal, review and permit issuance.

4) Speed Up Permits

Issue permits within a specified timeframe.

a. Issue permits for standard systems the same day as complete applications are submitted, electronically or over the counter.

OR: Issue permits within 3 days.

OR: State the policy on the timing of permit issuance as part of the permitting package and adhere to the timeline.

5) Cap Costs

Charge actual costs for permits and inspections with a cap on the total.

a. Cap total permit costs at a flat fee of $250 or less for standard residential systems.

b. Adopt a method of allowing systems that meet standard engineering calculations based on your community’s wind and snow loads to be exempt from providing a separate P.E. Stamp on each system. For example, the jurisdiction could require systems to adhere to standard engineering calculations on file with the jurisdiction. Document the system used and post an explanation online.

c. Exempt rooftop solar systems from sales or use taxes to encourage citizens to go solar.

6) Adopt Standard Licenses

Replace community-specific solar licenses, if required, with standard certification for installers.

a. Accept NABCEP PV installer and solar thermal certification in lieu of community-specific solar licenses.

7) Offer Inspection Checklist

Provide inspection checklist that explains unique requirements beyond applicable codes.

a. Post inspection checklist along with permitting requirements, listing issues of particular concern to your jurisdiction on your website.

b. Post changes to existing codes, code interpretations, and inspection requirements as they occur in writing on your website.

c. Share the changes as they occur with a solar industry nonprofit for timely communication to installers.

8) Narrow Inspection Timeframe

Specify a narrow time window for system inspection.

a. Give installers a timeframe window of two hours or less when scheduling an inspection.

OR: Allow installers to schedule next day inspections with a morning or afternoon window of time.

b. Allow installers to track progress and timing of inspections through telephone or web-based system.

9) Require Only One Inspection

For efficiency, require only one inspection for standard rooftop systems on existing homes or businesses.

a. Require only a rough inspection or a final inspection of standard rooftop systems, but not both.

b. For NABCEP-certified installers, allow installer affidavit to substitute for inspectors physically climbing on the roof and/or have inspector hand the installer a camera to photograph installation.

c. Adopt a written policy that you support offering staff free training as it is made available by the DOE and others.

10) Promote Solar Rights

Adopt ordinances that encourage distributed solar generation and protect solar rights and access including reasonable roof setback requirements

a. Designate rooftop solar systems an allowed use in all zones of your community.

b. Work with local fire officials to craft solar-friendly setback requirements while respecting firefighter safety concerns. Document your efforts in writing.

c. Adopt policies encouraging community solar projects and arrays on multifamily buildings to help make such projects available to low-income residents and those without solar access on their roofs.

d. Adopt written goals that support balancing solar development with other community goals such as urban forestry and historic preservation.

11) Educate Citizens On Solar

Educate residents on solar energy by providing information on financing options and projected economic benefits.

a. Provide educational information about solar options for residents through community outreach channels such as websites and cable television.

b. Provide educational community programs that explain financing options and programs such as solar gardens that are available through state, utility or regional initiatives.

c. Participate in available programs that offer innovative financing or expand options for rooftop solar such as group purchasing or a PACE-type program.

12) Track Your Solar Progress

Show your commitment to being a Solar Friendly Community by tracking community solar development and provide tools showing solar access in your community.

a. Keep a running tabulation of the installed solar in your community by project type. Work with your utility to quantify solar installations and publicize through your communication channels including your website.

OR: Partner with local energy efficiency and renewable energy groups (including but not limited to EnergySmart programs, local nonprofits, and utility partnerships) to promote solar energy in your community.

c. Provide maps on the solar portion of your community website showing the areas of greatest solar potential/ insolation in your community.

d. Encourage and promote rooftop solar development as one of your community’s stated goals.

The Time Is Right To Go Solar

Costs have dropped dramatically and many homeowners can go solar for little or no money down. You can enjoy clean renewable energy and eventually have free power from the sun.

Going solar is a very direct way you can combat the threats of catastrophic  climate change.

The Solar Friendly Communities program, which works with cities and counties to make it faster, easier and more affordable to go solar, helps cut some of the permitting red tape and delays in order to further reduce costs.

Solar Discount Program

We are working hard to redevelop the discount program previously offered by Solar Friendly Communities.

That program offered up to $500 incentives to homeowners in Solar Communities.

The discount program will provide a benefit not only to customers but also to participating solar installers by providing them with visibility, marketing leads and a way to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

As the discount program grows, we will use it to continue our dialogue with Solar Friendly Communities on continuing efforts to reduce soft costs.

More Solar Resources

Here at Simple Solar Living we are working hard to develop the most complete set of free resources to help individuals take steps towards going solar.

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