Solsmart: A Regional Approach to Solar Energy Adoption

The SolSmart program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and offers expert technical assistance at no cost to help regional organizations, counties, and local governments implement nationally recognized best practices to advance solar energy adoption. Solsmart is currently funded through 2027. 


Recent changes have been made to the program, including:  


  • New SolSmart Website – Includes updated guidance, community success stories, refreshed resources, and a new designee map. Visit the website here.  
  • New SolSmart Program Guides – Check out the new Regional Pathway Program Guide, which provides information and guidance to seek regional designation, as well as a new Standard Pathway Program Guide for local governments and a Modified Pathway Program Guide for counties.   
  • New SolSmart Criteria – Developed in consultation with industry experts, the SolSmart criteria have been improved to highlight the most up-to-date solar best practices, including
    actions that support solar in combination with energy storage and electric vehicles, actions to ensure solar is accessible to low-income communities, and actions to develop metrics and track your progress.    
  • New Platinum Designation Tier – Cities, Towns, Counties, and Regional Organizations are now able to achieve Platinum Designation, demonstrating a deep level of commitment to solar readiness and a desire to encourage solar development within the community!  

Regional organizations and cities and counties are all eligible to be designated. If you have a regional newsletter, blog or social media this is a great place to share about the program.

Click here to download the above flyer which explains the Regional Organization Designation Pathway. 

To support SolSmart efforts around the Regional Organization Pathway and to bring this important information to the over 500 national members of both organizations, the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation and NARC spoke with staff at designated organizations in the fall of 2021 to learn more about their involvement in the program and gather recommendations for other regional organizations considering pursuing designation.

The resulting publication, SolSmart: A Regional Approach to Solar Energy Adoption, includes insights into why organizations chose to participate in the program, tips on how to successfully prepare and conduct outreach, and how it can benefit communities. The document includes specific examples and links to SolSmart resources. Click here to download the report (PDF).

Please contact Senior Program Manager Ciara Ristig at [email protected] with any questions about SolSmart and how the NADO Research Foundation is supporting this nationwide effort.

On March 30, 2022, the NADO Research Foundationthe National Association of Regional Councils, and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council hosted a discussion with three Regional Development Organizations that have been involved in SolSmart’s Regional Organization Pathway Program. Staff at these organizations, Apalachee Regional Planning Council (FL)North Central Texas Council of Governments, and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OH), discussed the value of solar to their regions, their interest in the SolSmart program, and how they hope adoption of solar in their regions will change after designation. Theresa Perry at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council provided a short overview of the SolSmart program and its benefits and led a roundtable discussion with the panelists.

Solar Power in Your Community Guidebook

The Solar Power in Your Community guidebook serves as a resource to assist government officials and stakeholders in increasing deployment and local access to solar photovoltaics.

Through diverse case studies, information about new technologies, and more, you will gain invaluable insight and strategies for improving the equity of solar deployment at the local level. The guidebook is produced by The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and The National Renewable Energy Lab.

Access the guidebook to learn more.


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Applications cannot be saved and returned to at a later time. It is recommended you compile all of your information in advance in a word processor and cut and paste into the application below.

2023 Impact Awards

The primary applicant must be a NADO member. Project partners, both NADO and non-members, can be recognized under "Project Partners" below.

Primary Project Contact:
This person will be the designated point of contact for all future awards-related correspondence.

Organization Address

Project Location (if different from Organization Address)

Executive Director

Additional Organizational Information
Please upload your organization's logo which will be included on the winning project award certificate.

Project Information
This title will be printed on the award certificate for winning projects and in all 2022 NADO Impact Award materials and cannot be changed.

Project Summary & Questions
Please craft clear, thoughtful, and engaging responses to the following questions. Use the following sections to tell us how your project has made an impact, such as its use of creative funding mechanisms, efforts to create efficiencies or reduce costs, unique partnership models, and emphasis on building resilience and/or enhancing your region's quality of life.

For award-winning projects, the information provided below may be used verbatim to inform project descriptions that will be published in the 2023 NADO Impact Awards materials and included on the NADO website.

Please submit at least one photo showing your project in action. Please keep file size to a minimum (<2Mb) and use JPEG format. If uploading multiple files, ZIP files prior to submitting. If you have trouble uploading images they can be directly emailed to Brett Schwartz at [email protected]. Include the project title they correspond to in the subject line of your email.

Note: Submitted photos may be used in NADO Impact Awards materials and in other NADO published materials with credit to your organization. Please also consider submitting photos for NADO's 2023 Photo Contest, which will be held this summer.

Your application is not submitted until you are directed to a confirmation page. If you have any questions or are unsure if your application has been submitted, please contact Brett Schwartz at [email protected]

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Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

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