The City of El Paso is being honored for being a national leader in advancing solar energy by a federal program created to recognize communities fostering solar energy growth.
SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, is lauding El Paso as a SolSmart Gold designee for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper to go solar.
“The City of El Paso is supporting the growth of renewable energy by incorporating efficiencies into our permitting and inspection processes to make solar energy more accessible,” El Paso Deputy City Manager Cary Westin.
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.
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.
El Paso has implemented key services that help reduce these costs as well as enhancing customer experience, including:
- A streamlined permitting pathway for small photovoltaics (PV) systems with turn-around time of 24 hours
- Elimination of excess inspections and consolidation of inspection trips for solar PV.
- An online solar permitting checklist to guide customers through the process
- A dedicated, City Council-appointed advisory committee charged with making recommendations regarding renewable energy strategy and industry development.
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 either gold, silver, or bronze.
To date, SolSmart has recognized 111 communities for achieving SolSmart gold, silver, or bronze and only 53 have been recognized as gold.