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County supports solar growth through Dept. of Energy program

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Photo submitted Empowered Energy Systems, the partnered solar installer of the Solarize program, install solar panels on the home of a program participant.

The Delta County Board of Commissioners signed a statement in support of fostering a solar-friendly market in Delta County on Monday, July 3, as a part of a larger effort to pursue a SolSmart designation for the county.

The SolSmart designation program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Sunshot initiative and supports the goal of making it faster, cheaper and easier to go solar, according to the SolSmart official website. Achieving a designation recognizes that the community represents positive solar practices, and the designation has the potential to save the local government time and money by eliminating any unnecessary "red tape" or cumbersome processes in going solar.

The statement outlined the county's progress in developing a solar market and detailed future goals in ensuring the success of solar. These goals include "fostering an environment that encourages economic development through solar, tracking existing success in our growing solar market, and putting Delta County on the map as an energy resilient community through solar."

Signing onto the program is just the first step on the path to achieving a designation, which could be bronze, silver or gold. The different tiers of the program represent how advanced a community is in developing a solar-friendly market based on a point system.

Moving forward, Solar Energy International's (SEI) Mary Marshall and a partnered Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) SolSmart team member will complete an application which tracks the success of solar in the county, along with Elyse Ackerman-Casselberry, Delta County's community and economic development director, who will be the point of contact through the county.

The pursuit of the SolSmart designation falls in line with recent efforts to expand solar as a means of economic development throughout the county. AmeriCorps VISTAs at SEI have launched three Solarize programs since 2015 aimed at kickstarting a solar market through residential and commercial solar installations and community outreach. Since then, there have been over 50 new solar systems installed and over $1 million invested locally in solar.

If designated, Delta County will join the ranks of other SolSmart communities throughout Colorado including the City of Denver and Boulder County, and other communities throughout the United States such as Washington, D.C., Santa Monica, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charleston County and New York City.

The application process will continue through September, and the announcement of which communities receive a designation will be made in October.

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