As solar energy booms across the country thanks to plummeting costs, more and more communities will have the opportunity to host large-scale solar farms. These projects can bring a host of benefits to a municipality or county, from construction jobs to new property tax revenues — not to mention providing a new source of clean, carbon-free energy to help meet local climate action goals. At the same time, large solar installations can raise a host of questions from members of the community that leaders need to address.
A cover story in 2020 for Planning Magazine, published by the American Planning Association, offers a step-by-step guide for communities to manage large-scale solar development. As a featured success story, the article highlights Stearns County, Minnesota, who worked with SolSmart Advisor Great Plains Institute to create a predictable, transparent process for large-scale solar projects. This includes groundbreaking standards for enhancing stormwater protection and pollinator habitats, with benefits to the environment and local agriculture.
- 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