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Crews members of Solar Montana install a solar panel array

Workers with Solar Montana install a solar panel array in 2016.

By working to make it faster, easier and more affordable for residents to switch to solar power, the City of Missoula has been recognized as “open for solar business” by an international renewable energy advocacy organization.

The Montana Renewable Energy Association presented the city with a SolSmart Silver Designation award last week for reducing obstacles for homes and businesses to go solar and encouraging solar energy growth.

“SolSmart designation is more than just an award,” says Chase Jones, energy conservation coordinator with the City of Missoula. “Missoula is demonstrating to local businesses, solar companies, and residents that Missoula is a great place to ‘go solar’.”

The City’s website has a solar landing page at ci.missoula.mt.us/2275/Going-Solar with a permitting checklist, qualified installers, financing information, tax incentive packages and additional resources.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 contains a number of tax credits for residential energy efficiency as well as tax credits for builders of energy-efficient homes and tax deductions for energy-efficient commercial buildings.

Jones and Andrew Valainis of the Montana Renewable Energy Association, in partnership with Missoula County, Climate Smart Missoula and the Missoula Federal Credit Union, put together education workshops last year designed to show how easy it is to obtain affordable, clean and reliable electricity through solar. Jones said the implementation of more solar panels creates local jobs and drives economic development.

“Thoughtful planning is an important step that lays a foundation for taking action,” Jones said. “Earning this designation is an actionable step towards greater resiliency and the improved health of our community members, our economy and our environment.”

To receive the designation, the city had to make changes to local processes to reduce the time and money it takes to install a solar energy system.

“This program is great because it applies to any community that wants to make it easier for their residents and businesses to install solar,” said Valainis, who is the executive director of the MREA. “Missoula is one of the more developed solar markets in Montana, and there are still ways to continue streamlining processes.”

The city has a commitment to 100 percent clean energy by 2035 and Jones said the city will work toward a “gold” designation in the coming months.

The Missoula Federal Credit Union put together a guide to financing solar power for residential homes and businesses.

The guide can be found online at https://missoulafcu.org/environment/.

SolSmart is led by The Solar Foundation and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and 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.

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