Continuing previous efforts promoting local renewable energy development, the City of Duluth applied for and was granted a technical advisor as part of the SolSmart program. Funded through a Department of Energy SunShot Grant, the SolSmart program and the Solar Foundation, Duluth was one of 11 communities to be awarded a SolSmart Advisor. Over the course of 6 months, Duluth worked with their advisor to address solar “soft costs” and barriers to the use of solar energy in the city, as well as apply industry-leading best practices, allowing the City of Duluth to be officially granted the designation of SolSmart Gold in September of 2017, with a total of 215 points in SolSmart’s rating system.

The two primary components of Duluth’s efforts conducted in collaboration with the SolSmart program support consumer education and protection.

Consumer Protection

With the growing integration of small scale solar in the area, the City of Duluth is dedicated to ensuring consumer protection for those interested in local solar. To support these efforts, Duluth has collected a number of resources from national experts to help ensure “going solar” locally is as effortless and streamlined as possible.

Solar rights and easements

As large, utility-scale solar installations became more popular in Minnesota, the state passed legislation establishing guidelines to protect property owners. MN Statute 500.30 creates a process for recording Solar Easements within the state. Solar Easements are a method for parties to voluntarily enter into an agreement to protect the solar rights of either or both parties. As part of its Local Government Solar Toolkit, the University of Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Team has developed a Model Land Lease and Solar Easement for those approached by solar developers. Similar to other easements, solar easements are filed with the Saint Louis County’s Recorders Office:

Further steps towards SolSmart Gold status

In addition to the consumer-oriented resources the City of Duluth has made available, the City has also made progress internally on removing barriers for those interested in going solar. These efforts include, but are not limited, to the following efforts:

  • Develop and make available an online checklist detailing the steps required for permitting a solar system in Duluth. Solar checklist.
  • Offer an online process for solar permitting submission and approval.
  • Within its comprehensive plan, Duluth allows solar by-right and as an accessory use in all major zones. Additionally, as part of Imagine Duluth 2035, Duluth has identified areas for improvement and is working to implement zoning ordinance adjustments.
  • In an effort to provide local, emergency power resources, the City of Duluth recently installed a solar system with battery-backup on the Hartley Nature Center and is in the process of identifying other sites for similar development.


Lastly, the City of Duluth would like to thank the Solar Foundation, the Department of Energy SunShot program, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for the assistance and the opportunity to participate in the SolSmart Program. For more information on the SolSmart Program and the various organizations providing technical assistance, please see the links below.

Other useful links