SolSmart Silver Designation
In December 2020, OKI was recognized with a Silver designation by SolSmart. This designation recognizes the region’s efforts to embrace solar energy by making the solar installation process easy and reasonably straightforward for interested residents and businesses. The following letter outlines OKI’s stance and commitment to supporting communities with pertinent and helpful information.
Municipal Solar Procurement
Is now the right time for your city, school or park district to go solar? What are the essential steps to a successful solar procurement project? View our workshop to hear from national experts and a panel of local governments that have already gone solar.
OKI-SolSmart Workshop: Advancing Solar at the Local Level
Learn how the SolSmart designation can help recognize and encourage solar energy growth in your community.
About the Solar Ready Program
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) partnered with the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Meister Consultants Group, Inc., and the Council of State Governments on the US Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge (RSCII). This initiative seeks to:
- Reduce costs and improve efficiency of solar permitting process through regulatory reform,
- Increase access to low cost financing options,
- Increase awareness and boost solar adoption and investment. To that end, OKI has engaged a variety of local governments, utilities, businesses, and organizations to guide this initiative and develop a series of solar best management practices (BMPs) for consideration by communities in the OKI region.
In recent years, the solar industry has been a rapidly growing market. Rooftop solar PV installations can have positive impacts on the local economy and job market, provide a stable source of energy immune to traditional energy price volatility, increase property values, reduce electricity costs for homes, businesses, and governments, and augment utility energy needs during peak hours.
Local communities can play a critical role in reducing these soft costs by streamlining and standardizing the permitting process and by providing accessible information to the public. Reducing upfront costs of solar projects can in turn improve the return on investment of the projects and help boost the market competitiveness of solar energy. BMPs have been developed to both assist local governments that may be experiencing increases in rooftop solar system installations, and provide tools for those that choose to proactively promote rooftop solar in their communities.
Solar Ready Construction Guidelines
These voluntary guidelines have been developed for the local governments of the OKI region to provide guidance for residential developers, home builders and architects in the design and construction of new residential buildings. These guidelines are intended to guide a developer, architect, or other interested party through the components of building design required to prepare a building for future solar installation. These guidelines include best practices for solar-ready building design to minimize the costs of future solar installation while maximizing potential system efficiency and apply to site selection, building design, and building construction.
Addressing Solar in the Zoning Code and other Local Ordinances
Zoning codes, solar ordinances, and comprehensive plans can establish the vision and goals for solar development within a community. They can establish solar as “by-right” or “as-of-right” and set forth clear guidance for the development of rooftop, ground-mounted, and large-scale solar systems, removing major procedural barriers by creating a precise, regulatory pathway for solar-energy development. Policies can include integrating solar into comprehensive planning documents and subdivision regulations, modifying aesthetic requirements, and encouraging solar-ready construction.
Solar Access Ordinance
If increased solar-energy use is prioritized as part of jurisdiction policy, an ordinance protecting solar access should be created. Incorporate policies that address siting and land use along with landscaping considerations in order to facilitate access to solar. A solar access ordinance will reduce potential for legal challenges around solar rights.
Solar Consumer Rights
When it comes to working with a solar installer, it pays to do your research. There are a number of ways to finance a solar project, including avenues where the property owner leases the solar equipment rather than purchasing.
It’s important that customers do their homework.
Creating a Permit Checklist
A permit checklist can help guide an installer or other interested party through the permitting process by clearly stating all of the necessary types of plan reviews and required permits for a solar installation. A basic permit checklist would outline the sequential steps of the permitting process while a more comprehensive checklist would also include applicable standards for each step in the review process. The checklist should include all of the information that a jurisdiction would require in order to permit a solar installation. The checklist content will likely vary according to local context, such as density of development or weather conditions (such as snow or ice that can add weight to roof loads). Jurisdictions should review their own local regulations and guidelines should distinguish procedural differences between residential and commercial installations.