Cooper Center Partnering with Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to Offer ‘Solar Ready’ Program for Virginia Localities

May 20, 2020

Elizabeth Marshall and Carrie Hearne

The Virginia Solar Initiative of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service is partnering with the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to host a SolSmart Advisor Program in Virginia.

SolSmart is a national program that has helped more than 350 local governments in 41 states make it faster, easier, and more affordable for residents and businesses to go solar. The program is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

The no-cost solar technical assistance program empowers participating localities to expand their local solar markets and become “solar ready” by identifying and removing barriers to solar development at the residential, commercial, and utility scales. Localities that participate in the program and meet objective criteria have the opportunity to earn SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze designation and national recognition.

“The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia has a long history of working to make UVA’s globally recognized expertise available to public officials and private citizens in efforts to improve public policy in the Commonwealth,” said Larry Terry, Executive Director of the Weldon Cooper Center. “Global warming presents us with a challenge that will require all hands on deck. The Cooper Center looks forward to being part of helping design climate friendly policy pathways.”

“We are excited to work with UVA and the DMME to help more Virginia communities meet their clean energy goals through SolSmart,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director at The Solar Foundation. “Even in the wake of new challenges created by COVID-19, local governments are looking to clean energy to renew their economies and create high-quality jobs in the years ahead. With Virginia now poised to be one of the leading markets for solar energy growth, these expert Advisors will be helping communities succeed.”

As SolSmart Advisors, Virginia Solar Initiative’s Senior Project Coordinator, Elizabeth Marshall, and DMME’s Solar Program Manager, Carrie Hearne, will deliver research-based, industry leading best practices and technical support to help localities streamline their permitting, zoning, inspections, code needs, utility involvement and community involvement processes. Improving local processes saves time and money for local government staff and encourages more community members to adopt solar energy.

“Solar development is key in meeting Virginia’s clean energy goals established in the Virginia Clean Economy Act,” said DMME Director John Warren. “DMME has expertise and is well positioned to serve our friends on the local level as we all work toward the transition to a clean energy grid. We are excited about our collaboration with the University of Virginia in developing and launching this program. Their technical advice will provide critical guidance and input needed to engage stakeholders and ensure program success.”

The Virginia Clean Economy Act requires that Virginia’s electricity supply be carbon neutral by 2050.

William Shobe, Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at the Cooper Center, commented, “With the passage of the Clean Economy Act, Virginia has moved into a leadership position in efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate emissions that are contributing to global warming. Our work with DMME and the Solar Foundation will help chart a fair and cost-effective path to a clean energy future.”

Counties and municipalities interested in learning more about SolSmart, or who wish to express interest in participating should contact Elizabeth Marshall and Carrie Hearne by emailing vasolsmart@virginia.edu.

Topic Tags: County Connections, Solar

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