Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) established a national recognition and technical assistance program, SolSmart, for local governments—driving greater solar deployment and making it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access affordable and renewable solar energy to meet their electricity needs. The program also provides technical assistance and shares best practices with communities seeking national recognition for cutting red tape and improving local solar market conditions.
On April 27, 2016 the SPARC awardees announced the SolSmart designation and technical assistance program. Communities now have the opportunity to receive one of three designations and will be nationally recognized for their participation. No-cost technical assistance is also available for communities striving to achieve SolSmart designation. Communities can apply for SolSmart designation and apply to host a SolSmart Advisor.
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office announced the SolSmart Program Management funding program, which will award $8 million–10 million to one entity that will manage and expand DOE’s SolSmart program. At that time, more than 400 communities in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have received SolSmart designations for streamlining processes that make it faster and easier to deploy solar energy, attract investment, and lower energy costs for families and businesses. On September 28, 2021, Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm announced a goal of 460 SolSmart-designated communities by March 2022.
The SolSmart designation, coupled with robust and agile technical assistance, will spur communities across the country to earn recognition for achievements that distinguish them from their peers as they become more solar-friendly, and in doing so, ignite local solar markets while establishing consistency in solar practices across the country. SolSmart supports the goals of the Solar Energy Technologies Office to make it faster, cheaper, and easier to go solar.
This program will establish prominent national leadership recognition and technical assistance programs for local governments. SPARC has two topic areas: the designation program administrator (topic A), which will establish, name, and maintain the program, and the technical assistance provider (topic B), which will provide technical assistance to help communities achieve ambitious goals that eliminate market barriers and reduce soft costs. Local governments that qualify for recognition will receive a prominent designation and join a peer network of leading communities across the country.
Location: Washington, D.C.
DOE Award Amount: $3 million
Awardee Cost Share: $180,000
Project Summary: This project will create a national program to prominently recognize local governments across the country for their efforts to build stronger local solar markets. With guidance from a panel of industry experts, the project team will craft a fresh and accessible designation program signaling that participating communities are prepared to build local workforces and economies through solar market growth. To spur innovation and friendly competition among communities, the team will provide annual awards for achievements in various categories. The awards and other competitions will celebrate communities and other stakeholders that break new ground and make remarkable progress.
Location: Washington, D.C.
DOE Award Amount: $10 million
Awardee Cost Share: $270,000
Project Summary: This project will provide technical assistance support to communities pursuing the Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) designation. The team will enable at least 300 communities across the U.S. to qualify for the SolSmart designation via a three-pronged approach to delivering technical assistance: one on one technical assistance delivery to communities from a team of experienced national experts; the use of SPARC Corps Fellows to help select communities identify and reduce soft cost barriers; and peer mentorship and learning.