Now Is the Time to Plan for Our Solar-Powered Future

Solar energy had a banner year in 2023. Based on preliminary U.S. Energy Information Administration data, it's likely that more new large-scale solar facilities started generating power last year than all other new power plants combined. On average, these facilities are getting bigger, but new federal incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act are also driving new investments in community-scale (and often community-serving) facilities and helping to establish a U.S.-based supply chain for solar modules.

A Smooth Transition Isn't Inevitable

Globally, we may have already passed a tipping point, where even without any new policy support, solar energy will become the dominant source of power by 2050. But there is no guarantee that the U.S. clean energy transition will be smooth. Interconnection bottlenecks and insufficient transmission infrastructure pose significant threats in the coming years. And local opposition to proposed projects is widespread.

Solar@Scale Can Help

Need to get up to speed fast on the potential benefits and tradeoffs associated with large-scale solar development or the key factors affecting demand in your community? Looking for guidance on formulating a vision for the role large-scale solar development should play in your community's future? Hamstrung by outdated zoning regulations that fail to address solar energy? Anxious about a pending solar development proposal? Curious about what your community can do to ensure more equitable access to clean energy? Ready to learn about innovative project designs that can minimize land-use conflicts? Look no further than the latest edition of APA and ICMA's Solar@Scale guidebook!

This freshly updated resource tracks the evolving federal and state policy landscape for large-scale solar development, including new efforts to limit local control. It places a stronger emphasis on land-use decision-making processes as a plan implementation tool, with sharpened guidance to help planners participate in development review processes and contentious public hearings. To top it off, there are references to dozens of new resources and examples of local practices along with fresh facts and figures that provide insights into ever-changing market conditions.

Whether your community is just starting to consider relationships between large-scale solar development and other community priorities or is already among the rapidly growing number of host communities, the latest edition of the Solar@Scale guidebook can help you meet this historic moment of transformation that will largely determine our ultimate success in building a bridge to a clean energy future.

Solar@Scale: A Local Government Guidebook for Improving Large-Scale Solar Development Outcomes

Solar@Scale is a partnership between the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the American Planning Association (APA) that aims to help cities, towns, counties, and special districts understand and realize the potential benefits of large-scale solar development.

If you are at NPC, please join us on Saturday, April 13, 2024, for "Mastering Conflict: The Case of Large-Scale Solar," a joint learning lab from APA's upskilling initiative and Solar@Scale.

Have a question about Solar@Scale or want to share your experiences with planning and zoning for large-scale solar development? Contact solar@planning.org.

Top image: Bilanol, iStock, Getty Images Plus


About the Author
David Morley, AICP, is APA's research program and QA manager.

February 2, 2024

By David Morley, AICP