Delta County has received the National SolSmart Bronze designation as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Sunshot Initiative. The designation program recognizes communities that represent positive solar practices. Achieving a bronze designation puts Delta County on the national stage as a community that works to simplify the process of going solar for its businesses and residents.
A huge benefit of the SolSmart designation is that designated communities can receive no cost technical assistance. The technical assistance can help with reducing unnecessary cumbersome processes of going solar by helping draft new (or revise existing) planning, zoning, permitting and development regulations for the county. This saves time and money for governments and residents, as well as improves business prospects for solar companies by creating more solar friendly regulations.
Delta County's Bronze SolSmart designation comes from the collaborative efforts of Solar Energy International's (SEI) Mary Marshall and Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association SolSmart team member Brad Rutledge, along with Elyse Ackerman-Casselberry, Delta County's community and economic development director, who collaboratively worked through the application process.
When learning of the designation, Ackerman-Casselberry said, "Delta County is excited about this designation as a SolSmart community. We have a rich history in energy, and are focused as a community on energy innovation as part of our economic future. This designation is acknowledgement of the hard work we are doing in Delta County to solarize our communities, build our economy and create jobs."
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 57 new solar systems installed and over $1.2 million invested locally in solar.
The designation could not have been achieved without the Delta County Board of Commissioners releasing a statement outlining the county's progress in developing a solar market and detailing 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."
By expanding commitment to energy and economic resilience through solar, Delta County can earn further awards and recognitions, and potentially rise in the National SolSmart designations to silver and gold standings. Through further development of solar, Delta County can be an example of how transitioning to renewable energy can be a success, environmentally and economically, in rural America.