U.S. Department of Energy Expands SolSmart Program to Deploy More Solar Energy to Underserved Communities

SolSmart awardees will help communities cut red tape for solar projects; program meets 2022 goal to add 60 new communities, including first five in Puerto Rico

U.S. Department of Energy Expands SolSmart Program to Deploy More Solar Energy to Underserved Communities
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. © AP

The U.S. Department of Energy announced two awardees to manage the expansion of SolSmart — a program that has helped hundreds of communities remove red tape to increase solar deployment and expand access to clean energy. DOE also announced that more than 60 new communities accepted U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm’s challenge to join SolSmart, including the first Puerto Rican communities to participate in the program. The expansion of the SolSmart program will help the United States reach President Biden’s goal of having an equitable, clean electricity grid by 2035.

“SolSmart has helped hundreds of local governments make it easier and more affordable to go solar, and I am thrilled to see the program take root in Puerto Rico, where solar power’s climate resilience adds enormous benefit for the grid,” said Secretary Granholm. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting local governments transitioning and expanding access to clean energy like solar power, particularly in underserved communities.”

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) will share the $10 million award to update and expand SolSmart over the next five years, with a focus on rural and low- and moderate-income communities. IREC and ICMA will manage the program to encourage more equitable solar deployment and the adoption of emerging technologies, including a combination of solar power and battery storage.

SolSmart has a goal to help another 500 communities over the next five years and will add new areas of focus on solar and storage, low- and moderate-income solar financing, and other strategies to accelerate deployment and benefit underserved communities.

At least 40% of the new designees will be in underserved communities, helping to achieve DOE’s goals of increasing equitable access to clean energy and President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative.

Since its inception in 2016, SolSmart has provided no-cost technical assistance to more than 460 cities, counties, and regional organizations across 42 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. SolSmart has helped communities streamline processes that make it faster and easier to deploy solar energy, attract investment, and lower energy costs for families and businesses.

In September, Secretary Granholm issued a challenge to add another 60 communities to the program in the next six months. The communities that accepted the challenge and were recently designated as SolSmart communities are:

  • Edgewater, CO
  • Frisco, CO
  • Glenwood Springs, CO
  • Nederland, CO
  • Guilford, CT
  • Pensacola, FL
  • Doraville, GA
  • Council Bluffs, IA
  • Blaine County, ID
  • Hailey, ID
  • McCall, ID
  • Meridian, ID
  • Pocatello, ID
  • Bensenville, IL
  • Broadview, IL
  • Carol Stream, IL
  • Geneva, IL
  • Gurnee, IL
  • Hazel Crest, IL
  • Mount Prospect, IL
  • Mundelein, IL
  • Northlake, IL
  • Oak Forest, IL
  • Westmont, IL
  • Carmel, IN
  • Michigan City, IN
  • Zionsville, IN
  • Topsham, ME
  • Coon Rapids, MN
  • Hopkins, MN
  • Morris, MN
  • Mounds View, MN
  • Northfield, MN
  • Woodbury, MN
  • Boone, NC
  • Cary, NC
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Holly Springs, NC
  • Morrisville, NC
  • Nags Head, NC
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Reno, NV
  • Delaware, OH
  • Upper Arlington, OH
  • Etna, PA
  • Swarthmore, PA
  • Barranquitas, PR
  • Ciales, PR
  • Morovis, PR
  • Orocovis, PR
  • Villalba, PR
  • Greenville, SC
  • Newport News, VA
  • Bayside, WI
  • Laramie, WY
  • Atlanta Regional Commission (GA)
  • Michiana Area Council of Governments (IN)
  • Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (OH)
  • Region Nine Development Commission (MN)
  • South Central Regional Council of Governments (CT)

To learn more, visit the SolSmart and DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office websites.