Integrating Solar Energy into Local Plans

Solar Briefing Papers 3

By David Morley, AICP, Brian Ross, AICP, Darcie White, AICP



Most local plans fall into one of three broad categories: (1) comprehensive plans, (2) subarea plans, or (3) functional plans. In this conceptualization, comprehensive plans cover a wide range of topics of communitywide importance. In contrast, subarea plans cover one or more topics of particular importance to a limited part of a single jurisdiction, and functional plans focus on a single topic or system that is not limited to a single subarea. While some communities have adopted functional plans on the specific topic of solar energy use, many others address solar energy in comprehensive or subarea plans or in functional plans covering climate change, sustainability, or energy.

There are a number of possible references to solar that may appear in any policy-oriented plan. For example, a broad vision statement may relate how solar energy production intersects with general community values. An introductory background section may describe the existing physical and policy conditions for producing solar energy, and subsequent chapters or elements may state specific goals, objectives, policies, and actions relevant to promoting solar energy production. The substance of these references to solar will, naturally, vary depending on community preferences as well as the type of plan.


Page Count
Date Published
July 1, 2013

About the Authors

David Morley, AICP
David Morley, AICP, is a Research Program and QA Manager at the American Planning Association in Chicago, where he manages and contributes to sponsored research projects; manages the development of the Research KnowledgeBase; provides customized research assistance through the Inquiry Answer Service; develops, organizes, and participates in educational sessions and workshops; and writes for APA publications. Mr. Morley also co-edits Zoning Practice.

Brian Ross, AICP
Brian Ross has 25 years of experience working on local sustainability and clean energy topics, including local government policy and regulation, state policy and rules, and energy utility regulation. Brian currently leads the Great Plains Institute’s solar energy market transformation initiatives. He works across the Midwest and nationally with local and regional governments to develop “solar-ready” policies and regulatory standards, currently managing a cohort of 43 communities seeking to achieve national SolSmart designation. He also leads GPI’s local and regional government technical assistance programs to implement sustainable practices for clean and resilient energy development and climate protection. Brian works on the MN Solar Pathways project, a 3-year initiative to model and evaluate solar deployment strategies to achieve a high-renewable future in Minnesota, and manages Minnesota's "solar+EV" initiative with NREL's Solar Energy Innovation Network. Brian has also worked extensively in energy and utility regulation, serving as an expert witness in cost of service and rate design, energy efficiency and renewable energy, fuel cost reconciliations, and integrated resource planning.

Darcie White, AICP
Darcie White, AICP, is a Director with Clarion Associates, based in Denver, Colorado. She is a planner and landscape architect with over 20 years of professional experience. She has been involved in planning and plan implementation efforts for local, regional, and non-profit agencies across the country. Ms. White specializes in comprehensive planning for small and mid-sized communities, and has extensive experience developing plans and policies to support sustainable and resilient communities.