SolSmart Funding Program graphic

SolSmart is a national recognition and technical assistance program for local governments, which seeks to drive greater solar deployment and make it possible for 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.

SolSmart was created in 2016 through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office’s Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities (SPARC) funding opportunity. On May 23, 2022, DOE announced the expansion of SolSmart to add new areas of focus around solar + storage, low- and moderate-income solar financing, and other strategies to accelerate deployment.

Objectives

SolSmart designation, coupled with robust and agile technical assistance, motivates 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 accelerate the development and deployment of solar technology to support an equitable transition to a decarbonized electricity system by 2035.

Approach

The initial version of this program established a prominent national leadership recognition and technical assistance program for local governments. Local governments that qualify for recognition receive a prominent designation and join a peer network of leading communities across the country. The expansion of the program in 2022 increases equitable access to solar energy in underserved communities, including historically disadvantaged communities, communities with limited local government resources, communities with large portions of low- and moderate- income populations, and rural communities. The new SolSmart program aims to streamline and accelerate solar deployment to achieve the DOE goal of decarbonizing the energy sector by 2035. The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) are collaborating to jointly administer the SolSmart program.

Awardees

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA)

Location: Washington, D.C.
DOE Award Amount: $3 million in 2016; $5 million in 2022
Awardee Cost Share: $180,000 in 2016
Project Summary: The ICMA team leads the technical assistance portion of SolSmart and is developing strategies to support underserved communities and expand the program’s impact. During the first iteration of SolSmart, ICMA developed an accessible designation program that awarded communities for achievements in various categories.

Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

Location: Washington, D.C.
DOE Award Amount: $10 million in 2016; $5 million in 2022
Awardee Cost Share: $270,000 in 2016
Project Summary: The IREC team leads the designation portion of SolSmart and is working to streamline the designation process for communities by developing a new SolSmart platform. During the first iteration of SolSmart, this team developed 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.