Region Nine Development Commission Awarded SolSmart Silver
Designation for Advancing Solar Energy

Solsmart Silver Logo


Mankato, MN– Region Nine Development Commission (RNDC) has been awarded the SolSmart Silver designation for the organization’s efforts to make solar energy more accessible for residents and businesses in the region.

The SolSmart program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and recognizes organizations that have worked to promote solar energy by making it faster, easier, and more affordable for the community to adopt.

To receive this designation, RNDC worked to reduce the barriers for developing a solar energy infrastructure. This includes changes to local processes that will make the region an attractive area for solar companies. The expansion of solar energy has the potential to drive economic development in the area and create jobs.

“As an organization focused on community and economic development, one of our main jobs is helping our communities understand and access the resources available to them,” said Nicole Griensewic, RNDC Executive Director. “Solar energy is just another example of an important resource that can benefit our local communities and economies by providing affordable and clean energy. Through our work with SolSmart, RNDC learned how to develop solar resources in a manner that provides the maximum benefit for community resilience.”

The SolSmart program provides free technical and logistical expertise to communities interested in developing or expanding their solar energy capabilities. Through the program, RNDC worked with the Great Plains Institute to evaluate local permit, planning, and zoning procedures as well as recommendations to make solar energy more accessible in the region.

“We are getting a lot more questions from our communities about integrating renewable energy into planning and projects,” said Joel Hanif, RNDC Community Development Planner. “As a community development planner, I now feel more comfortable answering those questions and helping communities make the right energy choices for them. This is in large part due to the education and support provided by SolSmart and the Great Plains Institute.”

RNDC joins over 400 other communities and regional organizations that have received the SolSmart designation. All municipalities and counties are eligible to join the SolSmart program and receive this technical assistance. Interested communities can learn more at or by contacting Joel Hanif at