Iowa City receives Gold Level designation for solar energy efforts

Members of the Iowa City Council display the Gold Level designation plaque from SolSmart.
Members of the Iowa City Council display the Gold Level designation plaque from SolSmart. CREDIT CITY OF IOWA CITY

Iowa City recently received a Gold Level designation from the national SolSmart program, in recognition for the city’s efforts to encourage the growth of clean, affordable solar energy at the local level.

At the Nov. 21 council meeting, Mayor Bruce Teague and members of City Council accepted a plaque recognizing the designation. It’s a significant recognition since Iowa City adopted key strategies for the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which includes on-site renewable energy systems, electrification and energy efficiency. The city’s goals are to reduce emissions 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

According to an Iowa City news release, SolSmart evaluated the city’s solar energy practices in five key areas: planning and zoning, permitting and inspection, government operations, community engagement and market development. Iowa City met all five requirements, aligning with nationally recognized best practices. Consequently, it was found that barriers to solar energy use were reduced through the city’s efforts to make solar array installation faster, easier and more affordable.

“This designation is a testament to years of ongoing work that has been done in multiple Iowa City departments to support local residents, business, and organizations that want to pursue solar arrays for their facilities,” said Sarah Gardner, Iowa City climate action coordinator. “It makes me proud to see this work recognized on a national platform, and we really valued the opportunity to learn more through this program about practices in other cities we could add to our own efforts in the future.” Ms. Gardner worked with the SolSmart program to achieve the designation for the City.

Solar array public works building.
Solar array public works building. CREDIT CITY OF IOWA CITY

Iowa City’s solar initiatives included installing solar panels on government facilities, active involvement in state legislative discussions on solar photovoltaics (PV), and providing clear solar PV guidance on a dedicated webpage. The SolSmart website highlights additional program achievements and criteria met during Iowa City’s review process at

Equitable opportunities for underserved communities

SolSmart, led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, offers free assistance and resources to communities participating in the program. Communities meeting specific criteria receive designations such as SolSmart Bronze, Silver, or Gold, with a new Platinum designation introduced in 2023 for communities previously achieving Gold status.

An essential aspect of the SolSmart initiative is to ensure equal access to solar benefits for underserved communities, aligning with the federal Justice40 initiative. The review team commended Iowa City’s recent endeavors, particularly supporting solar energy in affordable housing, as notable projects benefiting the community.

Since its launch in 2016, more than 500 cities, towns, counties and regional organizations have achieved SolSmart designation. Iowa City joins 12 other Iowa communities to have participated in the program, and only one of five to receive a Gold level designation. More information and resources related to solar in Iowa City can be found under the Climate Action section of the City’s website at