WattsUp San Miguel County and SOL Smart

Solar Initiative

Wattsup San Miguel County logo (PNG)San Miguel County is proud to announce our “WattsUp San Miguel County” initiative.  Our initiative is designed to streamline our permitting process and highlight available technical and financial resources for our citizens and landowners to install solar PV systems on their property. 

Small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that are used for on-site electricity generation to power a residence, business, or agricultural operation on private land within unincorporated San Miguel County, for which the County has jurisdiction and land use authority, are a use-by-right in all zones in San Miguel County.  They may be off-grid or grid-tied, self-supporting or mounted on a structure.  The county does not charge permit fees for site-development or building permits for solar PV systems and issues permits for these solar PV systems under a simple administrative review process.

The process to obtain no-fee permits (free!) is outlined in our Solar PV Checklist (PDF) and explained in technical detail here. We have also put together a list of local solar installers (PDF) current as of September 2018. These links and pointers are provided for the user’s convenience.  San Miguel County does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of this outside information. 

Solar PV systems that are Public Utility Structures are permitted in all zones through a two-step review process which involves a review by the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners pursuant to Land Use Code sections 5-319 G. IX. Public Utility Structure, 5-319 H. Area and Bulk Requirements, and the Zone District Special Uses for the underlying zone.  Industrial or utility-scale solar farms are large arrays intended to generate electrical power for a utility to sell to off-site users.

SolSmart Sol Smart

SolSmart is a national designation and technical assistance program for local governments funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. The program promotes the use of best practices by local governments to streamline solar processes and increase affordability and accessibility for residents and businesses. All communities can access no-cost technical assistance, even outside of this Challenge. To date, SolSmart has over 200 designees who have achieved SolSmart designation for fostering the growth of local solar markets in their cities and counties.

In 2017 and 2018 the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) announced that one of its goals for the county organization is to “Work Toward Becoming Carbon Neutral”.  In harmony with that goal, San Miguel County applied to be recognized as a SolSmart local government. In 2020 SolSmart designated San Miguel County as SolSmart Gold under the following criteria and is helping San Miguel County become even more solar-friendly for its citizens and property owners to also work toward this goal.  

  1. SolSmart Criteria
  • Created an online permitting checklist, increasing transparency for community members and solar installers
  • Reviewed local zoning codes and identified restrictions that intentionally or unintentionally prohibit solar PV development
  • Allowed solar by-right accessory use in all zones (so solar installations don’t require special permits or hearings)
  • Cross-trained both inspection and permitting staff on solar PV
  • Provided a streamlined permitting pathway for small PV systems
TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ORGANIZATION


  1. SolSmart Criteria
  • Created an online permitting checklist, increasing transparency for community members and solar installers
  • Reviewed local zoning codes and identified restrictions that intentionally or unintentionally prohibit solar PV development
  • Allowed solar by-right accessory use in all zones (so solar installations don’t require special permits or hearings)
  • Cross-trained both inspection and permitting staff on solar PV
  • Provided a streamlined permitting pathway for small PV systems