Solar Ready logo


Are you interested in adopting solar energy to create a more sustainable and resilient community? The Solar Ready II project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge, is streamlining and standardizing solar processes across the country to ultimately provide new solar market access to ten million people nationwide. To spur the adoption of solar energy in regions and communities, the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) created the Solar Ready II website. This website is a great resource for city planners and managers, community developers, utility managers, and other public works officials interested in solar energy. The solar best management practices webpage offers over 30 resources ranging from zoning code improvements, solar access ordinances, building code improvements, streamlined and standardized permits and fees, financing, and much more. Each resource links to additional information and in-depth examples.

The resources found on the BMPs’ page are categorized by three main sections: Planning Improvements, Process Improvements, and Financing.


Planning improvements codify and emphasize a jurisdiction’s support of a building owner’s right to use solar. Removing local ordinance barriers, adopting facilitating codes, and enabling solar access in new developments fosters a community that supports individual choice. There are several planning improvement resources that public works officials can use to bolster solar energy adoption, including the American Planning Association’s Integrating Solar Energy in Local Plans. This resource examines different approaches used to integrate solar energy into planning, and breaks down common, comprehensive, subarea, and functional plans to demonstrate how to incorporate solar. It also provides examples of jurisdictions that have successfully met goals, changed policies, and taken action to support simple or complex solar initiatives within a community.


Process improvements are one of the fastest and most effective means to facilitating solar installation. Streamlining the permitting process, offering a centralized location for information that clearly explains the process, standardizing permit fees, and pre-qualifying plans and installers will make the process clear and seamless. Implementing solar energy can be an overwhelming task for a community that is not familiar with the process. The Mid-America Regional Council’s Solar Permit Checklist can assist installers, construction officials, planners, and others involved in the installation process. This resource explains the purpose and benefits of having a solar permit checklist, kinds of questions city officials should include, and examples of checklists cities currently have in place.


Financing options are key to increasing solar capacity since many communities still face high up-front costs for solar development. Evaluating local soft costs, engaging lenders, and launching Solarize campaigns are just a few of the numerous mechanisms communities can use to help make solar energy more affordable and accessible. In particular, Solarize campaigns have become an increasingly popular financing strategy. The Solarize strategy allows groups of homeowners and businesses to work together to collectively negotiate lower rates, and overcome the financial and logistical barriers to solar installation. The NREL Solarize Guidebook provides information on how to create a Solarize campaign in your community, including planning templates to initiate the campaign.  


There has never been a better time to start investing in solar energy. New approaches, resources, falling prices, and improved technologies are making solar the most affordable it has been in history. In 2013, the U.S. installed over 10 GW of solar, which is enough to power nearly 7.5 million homes. The resources found on the Solar Ready II website strive to simplify the process for cities, so that they can capitalize on this growing industry.  By implementing solar best management practices in their communities, cities will be able to take action on solar in a more cost and time efficient manner.


To learn more about available resources and Solar Ready II, please visit www.narc.org/solarready/ .  

Guest Blogger:  Mia Colson, MPAProgram Analyst , National Association of Regional Councils. 


The APWA Center for Sustainability Leadership Group held its winter face to face meeting in Tempe, AZ, February 6-7, 2014.  While enjoying the relative warmth of Arizona, Center Leaders spent a day focusing on refining its mission and priorities for the next 6 months and then enjoyed a tour of Singh Farms to see how they are working with the city on its new compositing program. 

The Leadership Group spent time simplifying its purpose and developed an elevator speech to help explain what the Center does for APWA and its members.  


The APWA Center for Sustainability promotes and supports APWA members continuing efforts to advance efficiency in their operations, services, projects and usage of resources that consider the economic, environmental and social contributions to livable communities.


This statement reflects the elements of public works management and highlights the importance of balancing the elements of the triple bottom line in creating sustainable communities.  To achieve the goal of promoting and supporting APWA’s members, Center Leaders identified three priorities to focus on over the next several months:  (1) Focus on marketing and outreach to raise awareness of sustainability in public works and of the tools and resources the Center has created or identified to help APWA members achieve sustainability; (2)  Continue to promote and support the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure and the EnvisionTM sustainable infrastructure rating system; (3) and Institutionalize sustainability principles and practices throughout APWA’s operations, programs and services.   


Center Leaders Enjoy Dinner After a Long Day of Work


Over the next several months, Center Leaders will be working on several projects to fulfill these priorities.   We are already working hard to integrate the elements of the Sustainabilit in Public Works conference into the 2014 Congress in Toronto, Ontario this August.  There will be numerous sustainability related education sessions offered in Toronto and there will be a session highlighting several presentations on how to use the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system.  In addition, Center Leaders are planning on hosting a roundtable discussion on sustainability in public works.  Center Leaders are also hard at work preparing several education sessions as well.   In addition, the Center also continues to solicit case studies highlighting sustainability in public works.  The Center would like to highlight sustainable public works infrastructure projects, programs and local initiatives so that we can build a collection of useful resources for your peers.  We have created a template for you to follow – http://www.apwa.net/DR/index.asp?ID=1726.  We will accept case studies on a continuing basis throughout the year.  Case studies should be sent to Julia Anastasio at janastasio@apwa.net.

In addition to spending a day working on the Center’s agenda for the next several months, Center Leaders had the opportunity to visit Singh Farms, an organic farm near Scottsdale, AZ.  Singh Farms was highlighted in the Stewards of Sustainability DVD that the Center for Sustainability produced in 2012. 


Singh Farm Vegetables


Mr. Singh took an abandoned piece of property and created an oasis in the desert where he grows organic produce, produces compost and fish fertilizer and holds a weekly famers market.  Mr. Singh has created a unique garden, designed for the Arizona desert environment.  He has planted a mix of trees that creates a micro-climate and increases humidity to protect his plants.  The gardens are planted in the spaces in between the trees where the plants are able to grow all year.  For his compositing activities, Mr. Singh has spent years researching and learning about the science of compositing and loves to share his knowledge about how to turn poor soil into rich productive soil.   Mr. Singh has been sharing his compositing knowledge and expertise with the City of Tempe’s new composting program.  Mr. Singh has advised city staff and remains in contact with them as they work to refine the city’s compost.  The City uses the compost at their facilities and parks and offers the compost to citizens in the community once or twice a year. 


Mr. Singh talking compost and soil science


All in all, Center Leaders had a very productive meeting in Tempe and are focused on identifying and providing the best tools and resources available to assist APWA members in creating livable communities.