Montgomery County is the first Maryland jurisdiction to receive a “Gold” designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar.
This designation recognizes Montgomery County for taking bold steps to prioritize solar energy growth and streamline the processes necessary for solar development. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Gold designation is a signal that the County is “open for solar business.”
In addition to achieving SolSmart Gold, Montgomery County was presented with a Special Recognition Award for excellence in solar permitting; planning, zoning and development; inspection; community engagement; and marketing development, and finance.
“I am proud of Montgomery County’s recognition as a SolSmart Gold community,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Montgomery County is committed to driving continual improvement in our solar market. Promoting and facilitating private solar photovoltaic installations supports our goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions countywide by 2035. The County is also committed to installing solar on public facilities to decrease the County government’s dependence on fossil-fuel-based electricity, reduce electric bills, and support the expansion of community solar.”
SolSmart, which is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. More than 380 counties, cities, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.
According to a County press release:
As a SolSmart designee, Montgomery County is helping solar companies reduce the cost of installations and pass those savings on to consumers. This allows even more local homes and businesses to obtain affordable, clean and reliable electricity through solar. The actions the County has taken will help encourage solar companies to do business in the area, driving economic development and creating local jobs.
“We are so pleased to have worked with the Montgomery County Executive’s Office and community partners to earn this recognition for Montgomery County,” said Montgomery Planning Deputy Director Robert Kronenberg. “This is about working together to highlight the importance of solar and reducing the barriers in our County, and based on the uptick in solar panel applications, the work is paying off.”
To receive designation, cities and counties make changes to their processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting, planning and zoning procedures. SolSmart designees also develop innovations in areas such as market development and finance.
The following are among the actions that Montgomery County is taking to achieve SolSmart Gold designation:
- Providing online checklist detailing the required permits, submittals, and steps of the permitting process for rooftop solar PV.
- Processing small rooftop solar PV permits in 10 business days or fewer.
- Training permitting staff on best practices for permitting solar PV and/or solar and storage systems.
- Providing an online process for solar PV permit submission and approval.
- Codifying in the zoning ordinance that accessory use solar PV is explicitly allowed by-right in all major zones.
- Providing clear guidance for the installation of solar PV on historic properties and in special overlay districts.
- Requiring no more than two inspections for accessory-use solar PV.
- Posting solar PV inspection requirements online, including the inspection process and what details inspectors will review.
- Providing an online process for solar PV inspection scheduling.
- Supporting a community-wide group purchase program.
SolSmart uses objective criteria to award communities points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers to solar energy development. Communities that take sufficient action are designated either Gold, Silver or Bronze.
As part of the SolSmart program, a team of national experts provides no-cost technical assistance to help communities become “open for solar business.” All municipalities, counties, and regional organizations are eligible to join the SolSmart program.
More information on the program is available at SolSmart.org.