Knowledgebase Collection

Solar Energy

In recent years, many communities across the U.S. have taken a renewed interest in solar energy use. In some cases this interest is driven by a communitywide goal to lessen dependence on nonlocal fossil fuels, and in other cases it may be a reaction to rising demand from community members interested in installing solar energy systems on their homes, businesses, or property. One consequence of this renewed interest in solar energy has been a sharp increase in the number of communities that have added policy recommendations to their plans that support solar energy use and updated their development regulations and other plan implementation tools to clarify what types of solar energy systems are permissible in specific locations.

From this page you can search for resources that provide background or policy guidance on solar energy use, as well as examples of guides, plans, model codes, and regulations that encourage solar development. And you can filter these results by various geographic and demographic characteristics. 

APA Resources

Planning for Solar Energy (PAS Report 575)

This PAS report provides planners with a basic rationale for planning for solar energy use, summarizes the fundamental characteristics of the U.S. solar market as they relate to local solar energy use, and explains how planners can take advantage of five strategic points of intervention to promote solar energy use.

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Solar Powering Sunnyside

This Solar Powering Sunnyside is a new participatory planning exercise that uses game play to help community members understand solar development options from a land-use planning perspective.

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Planning for Solar Energy Briefing Papers

This series of six briefing papers covers a range of specific topics related to planning for solar energy use. Each paper tackles a different aspect of the issue with a special emphasis on how local plans and implementation tools can reduce barriers to local solar energy use.

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Planning for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Facilities

This PAS Memo article examines utility-scale solar facility uses and related land-use issues. It defines and classifies these facilities, analyzes their land-use impacts, and provides recommendations and sample language for addressing utility-scale solar in comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances.

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Planning for Solar Energy (PAS QuickNotes)

This handout presents an overview of five strategic points of intervention for promoting solar energy use.

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Using Solar Energy to Enhance Community Resilience

This recorded webinar explores how communities can use solar development to enhance resilience.

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Promoting Solar Energy Use Through Local Planning

This webinar series focused on three topics central to local planning efforts: acknowledging the importance of the solar resource from a local policy perspective, incorporating solar-supportive policies into local plans, and adopting solar-friendly development regulations.

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Place-Based Power: Communities and Utilities

This APA Learn course assesses the relationship between utilities and municipalities in equitably providing distributed and renewable energy options to consumers.

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Play 'Solar Powering Sunnyside' to Sharpen Your Solar Skills

This blog post introduces "Solar Powering Sunnyside" as a participatory planning exercise to introduce the concept of solar energy to community members.

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Local Solar

This Planning article reveals that smaller, more rural communities are leading in the transition to community-scale solar.

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The Sun Industry

This Planning article investigates utility-scale solar energy in Maricopa County, Arizona.

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Solar Power's Friends and Enemies

This Planning article explores the opportunities and challenges of implementing large-scale solar initiatives.

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Solar Energy Use: Local Planning Issue

This Commissioner article explains that solar energy needs to be on the local planning agenda and provides some guidance about how to get the conversation started.

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Let the Sun Shine In

This Planning article explores the relationship between federal funding and local planning departments when it comes to accommodating and implementing solar energy use.

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The ABCs of Solar

This Planning article investigates the trend of solar energy adoption at schools.

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Renewable Energy Gets Real

This Planning article discusses how Gainsville, Florida used financial incentives to promote solar energy adoption.

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It's Everywhere

This Planning article describes how communities are taking advantage of the low cost of solar, thanks to federal tax credits.

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Sunny Side Up

This Planning article champions the success of solar energy and predicts its continued adoption.

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Here Comes the Sun

This Planning article introduces the concept of community solar and explains where it has been successfully adopted.

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Dubai's Planning Paradox

This Planning article investigates Dubai's environmental sustainability efforts, including an impressive solar program.

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Energy: Where Design Begins

This Planning article, an excerpt from William Browning's book Green Community, explores the relationship between energy, community, and the built environment.

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A Run to the Sun

This Planning article discusses some of the challenges of regulating solar energy use at the federal and local level.

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Planning for Solar Energy Use

Planners, local officials, and other community stakeholders typically support solar energy use for environmental or economic reasons. However, because most communities pursue multiple goals and strategies simultaneously, it is important for planners to help community stakeholders understand how using solar energy can affect other community resources and priorities.

Local comprehensive, functional, and subarea plans that include background information about the local solar resource and solar market conditions along with solar-supportive policy recommendations send clear signals to residents, business owners, and other community stakeholders about where and how solar energy use will be sanctioned or supported locally.

Zoning for Solar Energy Use

One of the biggest potential barriers to solar energy use is a lack of clarity in the local zoning code about what types of solar energy systems are permitted in what locations. Without clear use definitions and permissions, planners may be forced to make ad hoc determinations about whether a particular installation is permissible in a specific location.

Beyond this, communities can encourage solar energy use, while also mitigating potential conflicts, by helping updating development regulations with use-specific standards for different types of solar development and other complimentary standards. Standards for specific solar uses may address height, setbacks, screening, or decommissioning (among other topics). Meanwhile, communities can help protect or incentivize investments in solar energy by adding solar access protections, solar site design standards, solar-ready home requirements or incentives, and density bonuses or other development incentives to their development regulations.

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