Asheville receives 'SolSmart Gold' designation for prioritizing solar energy

Stock SectorMay 2, 20186min9
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Watch the SmartFlower solar device power down like it does each night after following the sun all day.
Angeli Wright/awright@citizen-times.com

ASHEVILLE — The city of Asheville was designated as a SolSmart Gold community this week for prioritizing solar energy for local citizens and businesses.

Asheville is one of 200 cities and counties to be recognized with the designation by SolSmart, a national designation and technical assistance program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. It is one of three municipalities in North Carolina to have a SolSmart designation after Carboro, also a Gold community, and Orange County, designated as a Silver.

In a news release Tuesday, the city said its Office of Sustainability has trained its Development Services Department on “how to permit and inspect solar systems,” streamlining the process for residential systems to a maximum of three business days.

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Additionally, the office trained first-responders on how to handle solar panels they may encounter during a structure fire.

Bridget Herring, energy program coordinator for the city’s Office of Sustainability, said the designation “demonstrates the city’s commitment to support a clean energy economy and transition to a clean energy future.”

“In an environment where state law restricts the financing mechanisms for renewable energy it is important that the City does what it can to remove barriers and costs to such installations,” Herring was quoted as saying Tuesday. “The SolSmart designation comes at an opportune time as state regulators recently approved Duke Energy’s ($62 million) solar energy rebate program.”

SolSmart is led by the The Solar Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., as well as the International City/County Management Association. Its designations help recognize communities who have cut permitting costs and saved money for customers, engaged community members on solar development, reduced obstacles to solar energy, streamlined inspection processes and encouraged local job growth.

Other cities to earn a SolSmart designation at the same time as Asheville include Fairfield, Iowa, Shawnee, Kansas and Suffolk County’s government in New York.

Andrea Luecke, president and executive director of The Solar Foundation, said Tuesday local government’s like Asheville’s are “on the front lines of our national clean energy transformation.” 

“SolSmart has helped 200 local governments and counting reduce administrative hurdles to solar, making them more resilient, more competitive, and well-positioned to attract new jobs and economic growth,” Luecke said.

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