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Town of Oro Valley receives "SolSmart Silver" award for advancing solar energy growth

May 24, 2017

SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, has awarded a silver designation to the Town of Oro Valley for its actions to promote a robust local solar market. As a SolSmart Silver designee, Oro Valley has received national recognition for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier and cheaper to go solar. A SolSmart designation is a signal that the community is "open for solar business," helping to attract solar industry investment and generate economic development and local jobs.

"We are very proud of this designation, as it aligns with the 2016 voter-ratified Your Voice, Our Future General Plan, which serves as a 10-year blueprint for the Town," said Town of Oro Valley Community Development and Public Works Director Paul Keesler. "In fact, one of the General Plan focus areas relies on the implementation of solar energy throughout the community to further reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. As the Plan states, ‘The Oro Valley community strives to positively impact the environment and lead by example through education and other efforts. These include promoting energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling, reducing air pollution and other efforts that will ultimately make Oro Valley cleaner and healthier.’"

To achieve designation, cities and counties take steps to reduce solar "soft costs," which are non-hardware costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. Examples of soft costs include planning and zoning, permitting, financing, customer acquisition, and installation labor. Soft costs now represent roughly two-thirds of the total price of an installed residential system. Reducing these costs leads to savings that are passed on to consumers.

Oro Valley’s soft cost reductions have improved the Town’s ability to issue solar permits more quickly and easily. The Town, in conjunction with Arizona state law, has adopted zoning code that removes installation barriers for solar facilities. The Town has also invested in training of its Permitting Plan Reviewers to specialize in solar installations so staff can more efficiently get plans out to the contractor.

Additionally, the Town plans to further enhance the solar installation process by working collaboratively with regional partners to create and maintain web-based information portals such as Solar One Stop, uniform renewable energy standards, inspection procedures and submittal requirements, and electronic permitting.

The SolSmart designation team, led by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), evaluates communities and awards them points based on the actions they take to reduce soft costs and other barriers to solar. Communities that take sufficient action are designed gold, silver, or bronze. As a silver designee, Oro Valley will now have the opportunity to earn additional points to qualify as gold.

As part of the SolSmart program, all participating communities are eligible to request no-cost technical assistance from a team of national solar experts to help them achieve designation. The SolSmart technical assistance team is led by The Solar Foundation.

Launched in April 2016, SolSmart aims to designate 300 communities during the three-year, federally funded program.

About SolSmart
SolSmart is a national designation and technical assistance program that recognizes leading solar communities and empowers additional communities to expand their local solar markets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, SolSmart strives to cut red tape, drive greater solar deployment, and make it possible for even more American homes and businesses to access solar energy to meet their electricity needs. Learn more at SolSmart.org.

About the SunShot Initiative
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.

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