FREEPORT, ILLINOIS — The City of Freeport announced it is receiving a Gold designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar.
This designation recognizes Freeport for taking bold steps to encourage solar energy growth and remove obstacles to solar development, a press released issued by the city Friday afternoon said. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Gold designation is a signal that Freeport is “open for solar business.”
SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. More than 350 cities, counties, and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.
“We’re proud to receive SolSmart Gold designation,” said City of Freeport Director of Community & Economic Development Andrew Zupkoff. “Solar project building permits have become some of our most common over the past 18 months, and we’re pleased to have adopted nationally-recognized best practices to make these property investments as easy and efficient as possible for our contractors and property owners.”
As a SolSmart designee, Freeport is helping solar companies greatly reduce the cost of installations and pass those savings on to consumers, according to the city. This allows even more local homes and businesses to obtain affordable, clean, and reliable electricity through solar. The actions Freeport has taken will help encourage solar companies to do business in the area, driving economic development and creating local jobs.
To receive designation, cities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting processes, as well as planning and zoning procedures. SolSmart designees also develop innovations in areas such as market development and finance.
Some of the major steps taken by Freeport in achieving SolSmart Gold status include developing and adopting a solar ordinance in September 2018 that has since become a model for other communities around Illinois, installing a large-scale solar array at the City Wastewater Treatment Plant, and successfully permitting and inspecting approximately 80 private solar installations throughout Freeport since the adoption of our solar ordinance.
SolSmart uses objective criteria to award communities points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers to solar energy development. Communities that take sufficient action are designated either gold, silver, or bronze.
As part of the SolSmart program, a team of national experts provides no-cost technical assistance to help communities achieve designation. All municipalities, counties, and regional organizations are eligible to join the SolSmart program and receive this technical assistance. Interested communities can learn more at SolSmart.org.