Credit: Albemarle County

Albemarle County, VA is announcing its new national designation as SolSmart Bronze, an achievement that recognizes communities for adopting programs and practices that make it faster, easier, and cheaper for the community to go solar. The county is one of the first communities in the state of Virginia to earn this recognition for solar-friendly communities.

“The County has committed to lowering the costs and barriers for the community to go solar, and I hope the community will take advantage of the opportunity to save money on electric bills and foster energy independence with a domestic source of clean energy. We want encourage the growth of local solar jobs and the continued development of a renewable energy hub in our region, “said Norman Dill, Vice Chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

Achieving the SolSmart designation is a signal that the community is “open for solar business” and wants to attract solar industry investment and generate local jobs. In order to be designated, a community must take action to encourage solar development and 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. The County’s efforts to reduce the soft costs incurred through zoning, permitting, inspection, and financing will lead to savings that are passed on to consumers.

“The County has joined the ranks of other leading communities in the country that have taken steps to encourage local solar growth. We will continue to grow our commitments to reduce energy consumption and increase renewable energy use in our own operations, said Greg Harper, Chief of Environmental Services in Albemarle County.

In order to achieve the Bronze level designation, Albemarle County took steps to support solar energy adoption by passing a new zoning ordinance to allow solar farms, offering a solar panel safety training for the Fire Rescue department, and creating new online solar resources for the public. The County also received credits for hosting Solarize campaigns that offer community members cost savings on solar installations, offering financial incentives for property owners that install solar energy systems in the county, and identifying ways to further support solar in its permitting and zoning policies.

Albemarle County and City of Charlottesville were selected together in a competitive process as one of eleven host communities nationwide to be granted a program-funded SolSmart Advisor. The Advisor has been working full-time over the past six months to provide expertise and dedicated support to achieve SolSmart designation and to encourage solar energy growth locally.