Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith with Carol Davis, Blacksburg Sustainability Manager

Going solar is a big decision.  Although a solar array will more than pay for itself over its functional life and then some, the upfront cost and complexity can be daunting for the average household or business-owner to navigate.  To address both of these challenges, the SolSmart Community Designation program was jointly developed by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Since the SolSmart program was launched in 2016, more than 300 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation.  Blacksburg was proud to join their ranks earlier this year when it attained a SolSmart Silver designation and will soon be joined by the NRV Regional Commission, which is working toward designation for the New River Valley through a newly-created Regional Organizations PathwayThe program is specifically designed to encourage regional organizations such as NRVRC to play a vital role in advancing solar efforts in their regions, which allows NRVRC to manage and disseminate available information, resources and best practices for solar programs and solar development to support member organizations in the NRV. Recently NRVRC hosted a webinar for the Planners in the New River Valley that addressed best practices for including solar in land use plans and zoning ordinances. The NRVRC hopes to achieve the SolSmart designation by summer of 2020.

The SolSmart designation recognizes localities that take active and bold steps to encourage future expansion of solar energy by removing obstacles to solar development. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart designation is a signal that that community is “open for solar business.” To receive designation, cities and counties examine and make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system.

“To achieve Blacksburg’s SolSmart Silver designation, we took a hard look at all the planning, zoning, permitting, and inspection policies we had in place and identified opportunities to streamline the process,” said Carol Davis, Sustainability Manager for the Town of Blacksburg. “We also created a one-stop, comprehensive solar landing page on the town’s website, where homeowners and businesses can get their questions answered about the town’s solar policies and processes; the benefits of going solar; online tools to assess your property’s solar potential; tips for finding a qualified solar contractor; and guidance on solar financing, incentives and tax credits.”

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