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SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, is awarding a bronze designation to the Town of Natick, MA for taking important first steps to reduce solar energy costs and encourage solar energy growth. Natick is the third community in the state to receive designation.
As a SolSmart Bronze designee, Natick is receiving national recognition for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar. 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 in the United States. Reducing these costs leads to savings that are passed on to consumers.
“Natick’s SolSmart designation is a signal that our town is ‘open for solar business’ and we are proud to receive this national recognition,” said Town Administrator Martha White. “Solar has always been a win-win for our community — it helps residents and businesses mitigate costs and support a sustainable future, and the Town is determined to continue to advocate for cost savings.”
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 going solar. Communities that take sufficient action are designated as either gold, silver, or bronze. 80 points are required to receive bronze designation.
To-date, Natick has received 285 points for a variety of actions including:
As a bronze designee, Natick now has the opportunity earn additional points to qualify as silver or gold. “Natick is the Home of the Champions, so achieving bronze simply isn’t good enough,” said Jillian Wilson Martin, Natick’s Sustainability Coordinator. “Our intent is to take further action to reduce solar costs and to work with key stakeholders to reach gold by the end of 2017.”
To reach the gold designation, the Town of Natick, with support from a SolSmart technical advisor, plans to propose changes to zoning bylaws to clarify solar development rights and restrictions, draft considerations for active and passive solar in development regulations, survey area solar installers to identify opportunities for improvement, and review its solar permit fee structure against national best practices.
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.