Marshall County and the City of Plymouth have now met national benchmarks for encouraging growth of solar energy and removing barriers to solar market development. Both communities have received SolSmart Gold designation, the highest level that can be earned. They join over 300 cities, towns and counties across the country including the City of Goshen, City of Nappanee and City of South Bend who were designated in 2017.
The SolSmart designation helps local governments make it faster, easier and more affordable to go solar. The program launched in 2016 and has now achieved its goal of designating at least 300 communities as SolSmart Gold, Silver or Bronze with designees in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Through the SolSmart program, these communities receive no-cost technical assistance and national recognition for their bold actions to advance solar energy locally.
Both new MACOG designees, Plymouth and Marshall County were recognized for having efficient permitting and inspection processes, providing information online and training staff on the codes related to solar energy. Marshall County and Plymouth earned a special recognition award for earning over 60% of the available points in both the Inspection and Permitting criteria categories.
The SolSmart process also emphasizes training related to the technology, for inspectors, permitting staff, and fire department. Plymouth encouraged their fire department to take training to understand the technology. Mayor Senter said, “Our fire fighters are now more prepared, should they need to respond to a fire where solar panels are present.”
The City of Plymouth and Marshall County assisted in expanding the Solarize initiative into rural and smaller communities and educational workshops were held in Plymouth, Culver and Argos. Plymouth Mayor Mark Senter shared, “It makes sense to give people access to information to provide greater choice about where their energy comes from, how much they pay on their utility bill and to make it easier to do so.” The City of Plymouth was also recognized for leasing underutilized land at their municipal airport for a solar array as part of NIPSCO’s Feed-in Tariff program.