Chattanooga Recognized By The U.S. Department Of Energy For Solar Industry Growth And Economic Potential

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The outlook for economic development in the Scenic City is now a little sunnier. In December, the City of Chattanooga’s Office of Sustainability was notified that the city is receiving a Bronze designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar.

SolSmart is a U.

S. Department of Energy funded recognition program for communities that have taken steps to reduce solar costs and barriers and promote the growth of a mature local solar market. This designation recognizes Chattanooga for taking bold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development. SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. More than 150 cities, counties and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.

“To the private sector, a SolSmart designation is a signal that Chattanooga is open for solar business,” said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “As solar power becomes cheaper and more prevalent, my administration has been working hard to make Chattanooga a leader among cities that want a more progressive energy economy to expand and grow here. This is both smart for the planet and great for economic development in our community. We’re very proud to have earned this recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy and look forward to putting more solar companies to work here.”

To earn SolSmart Bronze designation, the City of Chattanooga has:

  • Completed an exhaustive Planning, Zoning and Development review and presented the findings to the Planning Commission.

  • Established solar as a by-right and accessory building use in all major zones through an ordinance update completed in October of 2017.

  • Trained its permitting staff on best practices for permitting solar PV systems.

  • Provided an online permitting checklist for small-scale solar PV systems

  • Provided better safety to Chattanooga Fire Department staff responding to incidents by providing training on solar PV issues and sharing open-source permit data where PV systems are installed.

  • Encouraged the use of community solar projects on community facilities through the establishment of EPB’s Solar Share project and a statement from Mayor Berke committing to supporting the development of additional solar assets in Chattanooga.

As a SolSmart designee, Chattanooga is helping solar companies greatly 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 Chattanooga has taken will help encourage solar companies to do business in the area, driving economic development and creating local jobs.

To receive designation, cities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting processes as well as planning and zoning procedures. SolSmart designees also develop innovations in areas such as market development and finance.

In December, the City of Chattanooga also learned it will be included in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Office - a no-cost training program for 50 cities and counties to help expand their use of solar photovoltaics (PV).

NREL is a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC. NREL’s mission is to advance the science and engineering of energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and renewable power technologies and provides the knowledge to integrate and optimize energy systems.

“Between joining the growing number of cities that have become SolSmart designated communities and the training we will receive from NREL, Chattanooga is making real progress toward implementing smarter, better energy policies,” said Erik Schmidt, Chattanooga’s director of Sustainability. “These programs invite the participation of the private sector and will be a economic development engine for our local solar industry partners that want to grow in Chattanooga.”

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