County earns ‘SolSmart Gold’ recognition for solar energy efforts

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Chester County Government has received national gold level SolSmart recognition for encouraging the growth of clean, affordable solar energy at the local level.

As a SolSmart Gold designee, Chester County has adopted nationally recognized best practices to advance solar market growth. The county worked with SolSmart’s no-cost technical assistance team to increase local knowledge of solar energy so the entire community can benefit.

“Achieving this SolSmart recognition is a direct result of actions identified in Chester County’s Climate Action Plan,” said Chester County Commissioners Josh Maxwell, Marian Moskowitz, and Eric Roe. “This designation is also down to the efforts of the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board members, led by the County’s sustainability director Rachael Griffith.  We thank them for their focus and determination.”

To achieve SolSmart Gold designation, Chester County led numerous outreach programs and provided solar-related technical assistance to Chester County municipalities. Key activities included: providing training on best practices for permitting and inspecting solar energy systems; providing zoning ordinance guidance to municipalities for regulating accessory use and grid-scale solar; creating a Solar Power Guide to help municipalities understand the land use considerations for grid-scale solar power; and creating a solar webpage for homeowners, businesses, and municipalities interested in going solar.

Chester County’s solar webpage also includes an interactive Solar Map showing solar installations across the county. Chester County’s Department of Community Development also revised its Community Revitalization Program, a funding program open to the 15 boroughs and the City of Coatesville for infrastructure improvements, to include solar energy systems as an eligible use of grant funds, in support of the county’s Climate Action Plan.

The goal of the Chester County Climate Action Plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Chester County by 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.

Chester County’s Environmental and Energy Advisory Board played a key role in supporting the county’s SolSmart designation through hosting public programs related to solar power, including a Solar Adopter’s Conference this past January that was attended by over 100 businesses, non-profits, and municipalities interested in pursuing solar power. A full list of criteria met for this designation can be found on Chester County’s designee page on the SolSmart website.

Local governments achieve SolSmart designation by meeting established criteria that are based on national best practices for building solar-friendly communities. The SolSmart team of experts offers free technical assistance and resources to help communities put these practices into action. Those that meet the criteria are designated SolSmart Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze.

Three Chester County municipalities have also obtained SolSmart designation: East Goshen Township (silver), Kennett Square Borough (bronze), and Tredyffrin Township (bronze).

Chester County Sustainability Director Rachael Griffith said, “We encourage other Chester County municipalities to pursue this no-cost program to reduce the barriers for solar power and we are available to help facilitate this.”

SolSmart is led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Over 500 cities, towns, counties, and regional organizations have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016.  Any city, town, county, and regional organization is eligible to join the program. Interested communities can learn more at SolSmart.org.

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