Iowa Solar Readiness Initiative Pilot Community
In 2013, the Iowa Economic Development Authority selected Linn County to participate in the Iowa Solar Readiness Initiative. The goals of the Iowa Solar Readiness Initiative include reducing the costs and other barriers to installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for businesses, residents, and communities. As part of this Initiative, Linn County amended the zoning standards in its Unified Development Code to permit both consumer- and utility-scale solar installations.
Solsmart Gold Designation
Linn County received a Gold designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar.
SolSmart is a national organization funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that helps local governments develop solar energy in their communities.
For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Gold designation is a signal that Linn County is “open for solar business.”
To receive designation, cities and counties make changes to their local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system. This includes evaluating local permitting processes, as well as planning and zoning procedures. SolSmart designees also develop innovations in areas such as market development and finance.
Linn County followed these action items to achieve the “SolSmart Gold” designation:
- Create and make available an online checklist detailing the steps of Linn County’s solar permitting process
- Provide a streamlined permitting pathway for small photovoltaic (PV) solar systems (<15kW) with turn-around time of no more than 3 business days
- Conduct a review of solar permit fees for residential and commercial solar
- Review zoning requirements and identify restrictions that intentionally or unintentionally prohibit solar PV development
- Adopt zoning ordinance amendments to remove restrictions impacting the development of solar PV
- Allow solar by-right and as an accessory use in all major zoning districts
- Eliminate excess inspections and consolidate inspection trips for solar PV
- Support or host a community-group purchase program (e.g., Solarize Linn County) and workshop open to the general public and/or county staff explaining solar PV opportunities and policies