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Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith (left) and Sustainability Manager Carol Davis hold the town’s SolSmart award.

The town of Blacksburg has received a silver designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar.

This designation recognizes the town for taking bold steps to encourage future expansion of solar energy by removing obstacles to solar development. For companies looking to expand, a SolSmart Silver designation is a signal that Blacksburg is “open for solar business.”

“Blacksburg is proud of its leadership role on solar energy in Virginia,” said Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith. “We were one of the first communities in the state to pass a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, and the very first to offer a Solarize campaign. We intend to continue working toward a clean energy future for our citizens and businesses. Attaining this community designation is just one more way that we are translating our ambitious goals into practical action.”

As a SolSmart designee, Blacksburg is helping solar companies greatly reduce the cost of installations, and those savings are passed to consumers. This allows more local homes and businesses to obtain affordable, clean and reliable electricity through solar.

The actions the town has taken will help encourage solar companies to do business in the area, driving economic development and creating local jobs.

To receive the 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.

“To achieve this designation, we took a hard look at all the planning, zoning, permitting and inspection policies we had in place and identified opportunities to streamline the process,” said Carol Davis, sustainability manager for the town of Blacksburg. “We also created a one-stop, comprehensive solar landing page on the town’s website, where homeowners and businesses can get their questions answered about the town’s solar polices and processes; the benefits of going solar; online tools to assess your property’s solar potential; tips for finding a qualified solar contractor; and guidance on solar financing, incentives and tax credits.”

As part of the SolSmart program, a team of national experts provides no-cost technical assistance to help communities achieve designation. SolSmart uses objective criteria to award communities points based on the actions they take to reduce barriers for solar energy development. Communities that take sufficient action are designated either gold, silver or bronze.

SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. More than 200 cities, counties and small towns have achieved SolSmart designation since the program launched in 2016. Learn more at

Submitted by Carol Davis

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